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Helping Others Answer the Call

 
 
It’s been said that the greatest days in your life are the day you were born and the day you figured out why. Indeed, one of the most significant discoveries you can make is discovering what God has created you for.
 
I was reminded of this recently as we studied the first reading for the second Sunday after Epiphany. In 1 Samuel 3 we read of how Samuel discovered his calling. Three times the boy Samuel heard the voice of God calling and three times the boy ran to his master Eli as he assumed it was Eli who was calling him. When it happened a third time, Eli realized the voice calling the boy must be God’s. So he instructed Samuel to go back and when he heard the voice call to him again, simply say “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
 
This lesson serves as an excellent reminder that not only are we to seek to discover our own calling from God, but also help others to hear and answer their calls too. As Eli mentored Samuel in the faith and helped him to hear and recognize the call of God, all God’s faithful are called to help mentor and guide others, especially those who are younger, to discover how God is calling them to live and to serve.
 
All across the Texas District congregation members are concerned about the future of the church. And there is good reason for concern as they look around and see aging pastors and congregations, dwindling youth and children’s programs, and little movement among young people in preparation for Christian ministry. But instead of wringing our hands there is something that each of us can and should be doing. Maybe a significant part of our own calling is helping others discover theirs. Maybe we are called to be Elis to invest in young Samuels… or Pauls to invest in young Timothys.
 
Inevitably the question will be asked: How? How does an older person meaningfully engage in the faith development of a younger person? The key is to get back to the basics of living out our faith in community. The Christian faith compels us to engage with others around us no matter what age, race, or socio-economic status they are. Let’s join Jesus on his mission and get to know our neighbors again, especially those who are younger or different. Love them like Jesus would, without judgement or shame, but pure, grace-filled kindness and love that can communicate across every social barrier we think might be there. And most of all, when the time is right and one comes to you seeking guidance, like Eli you can point him or her to God and teach him or her to say with an open heart, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
 
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Pastor Bryce Formwalt is the Director of Mission Growth for the LCMC Texas District. Residing in Georgetown, Pastor Bryce is available to coach congregations on mission. Feel free to contact him with any questions or comments: 512-942-7776 or bryce@lcmctexas.org.
 
 
© 20178Bryce J. Formwalt, All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.
February 2018

The Gifts We Bring

 
 
Gift giving can be difficult at times. Let’s face it: some people are hard to shop for! But have you ever stopped to wonder why gift-giving is important? What’s a gift really about anyway? Giving gifts to friends and family is an ancient ritual of nearly every known human culture. Gifts signify a relationship (or the desire for one) and are meant to delight, honor, and/or surprise the recipient. In our attempt to do just that we seek to give a gift that is an expression of that loving relationship, but it often gets deduced down to giving the gift that a person either wants or needs but does not already have.
 
So what do we give Jesus, the King of kings? On Epiphany, we are fondly reminded of the story when magi journeyed from afar to worship the newborn King Jesus bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Now these were extraordinary gifts to be given to a child. But what should we give Jesus, today? What does Jesus need or want that he doesn’t already have? What would bring him delight, honor, or surprise? And what do I really have to offer? In honor of the magi, I’d like to propose three gift-giving suggestions:
 
First of all, give Jesus yourself. Take time to be with him, commune with him, worship him, and walk with him. In the busy-ness of our day-to-day lives we can be neglectful of our relationship with Jesus. Remember above all else, Jesus desires to be in relationship with you and with me.
 
Secondly, give Jesus the very best of what he’s given you. God has uniquely created you with interests and talents and abilities. In this Epiphany season, remember how Jesus is calling you to use what he’s given you to give Jesus honor. Ask God for guidance of how you can serve him with the gifts he’s already given you.
 
Finally, give Jesus the introduction to a friend. Just as Jesus desires to be in a relationship with you, he desires to have that with all of people. Take time to introduce Jesus to a friend. Do all your friends already know Jesus? Then it is time to make some new friends with people who don’t! Pray for God to guide you every step of the way and watch with awe and wonder as the Holy Spirit creates faith in the heart of your friend.
 
In this season of Epiphany we are reminded of the privilege we have to delight, honor, and surprise Jesus with our gifts. Let’s cherish every gift-giving opportunity and live our lives to the honor and glory of God, giving thanks for his goodness and mercy!
 
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Pastor Bryce Formwalt is the Director of Mission Growth for the LCMC Texas District. Residing in Georgetown, Pastor Bryce is available to coach congregations on mission. Feel free to contact him with any questions or comments: 512-942-7776 or bryce@lcmctexas.org.
 
 
© 2017 Bryce J. Formwalt, All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.
January 2018

The World Needs Jesus

 
 
No doubt about it, the news in recent weeks has been grim as we have been bombarded by story after story of violence that has erupted on our own homeland. In the span of just a few short weeks we’ve awoken to stories of racially motivated hatred that sparked violence in Charlottesville, the senseless mass shooting of concert-goers in Las Vegas which killed dozens and injured scores more, and the brutal and inexplicable massacre of more than two dozen Christian worshippers far too close to home in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
 
And as human beings and Americans we grieve and cry out all sorts of questions: why all the suffering, the hatred, and the violence? What’s going on here and how can we stop it? Some answer with cries for gun control. Others answer it with a call for law-abiding citizens to bear arms. But as Christians, in addition to lovingly supporting and encouraging those directly victimized by this senseless violence, what is our unique calling and witness in response to this season of increasing violence? I believe that the Church can provide leadership to our culture and society by responding faithfully at this dark and difficult hour.
 
First of all, we cannot react out of fear. The most frequent command of God in all of Scripture is to not be afraid. Fear is destructive, and worry is its harmful cousin. I’ve heard it said before that worry is the misuse of God’s gift of imagination. Remember Jesus asked, “Can any of you add one moment to his life-span by worrying?” So reacting in fear or worry is simply not a faithful response.
 
Instead, I believe that the Church must respond with a deep conviction and determination to bring about Gospel-transformation and to love one another with a Christ-like love. NFL quarterback Carson Wentz responded to the Las Vegas shooting with a tweet stating simply that “The World needs Jesus in a bad way.” I couldn’t agree more. Followers of Jesus can and will disagree about the merits of both gun control and bearing arms, but we simply must agree with Carson Wentz’s faithful response: the world desperately needs Jesus.
 
So Church, let this be a wake-up call to our collective negligence in delivering the transformative Gospel of Jesus Christ to our communities. And instead of being preoccupied with developing defensive security plans and procedures or mobilizing people for a political agenda, let’s get preoccupied with our most important task of sharing Jesus. We proclaim and trust that Christ is King and acknowledge that he commands us to neither fear nor worry. Therefore in faith we shall respond to this evil with the proclamation and incarnation of God’s amazing grace in our communities and wherever we have influence and do so in the face of fear with the peace of God that surpasses all human understanding.
 
“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom should I fear?” – Psalm 27:1
 
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Pastor Bryce Formwalt is the Director of Mission Growth for the LCMC Texas District. Residing in Georgetown, Pastor Bryce is available to coach congregations on mission. Feel free to contact him with any questions or comments: 512-942-7776 or bryce@lcmctexas.org.
 
 
© 2017 Bryce J. Formwalt, All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.
December 2017

Reformation Spirit

 
 
As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it is important to reflect on the faithfulness of our churches today with the same Reformation spirit that Luther and the other reformers looked upon the church of their day. We need to ask ourselves the important questions in evaluation of our life and ministry: are we, the church of today, a faithful expression of God’s intention for his followers? In what ways would God smile down on us and in what ways have we fallen short of God’s call as Christ’s bride?
 
For some the answer is clear: the church in America has lost its way. Some might go so far as to say the issues that the church in America faces today are as big or bigger than the issues the reformers faced in Europe 500 years ago. As I work with congregations in renewal workshops, the question has often been raised, “How has the church in America gotten so far off course?”
 
In response, I like to share an illustration I first heard from a pastor I used to work with, John Bradosky, now bishop of the North American Lutheran Church. John had taken lessons to become a private pilot and he explained the importance of checking your heading. If a pilot were to have a slight error in his or her heading, the plane would be significantly off course several hours into a flight plan. This is what I believe happens to our churches when we put ministry on auto-pilot: we may start off only slightly off course, but a generation or two without checking our heading and we are a long ways off from where God would want us to be!
 
So in the spirit of the great reformers, I invite you and your church to check your heading. Are we where God wants us to be? Are we going where God wants us to go? What course corrections do we need to make in order to get headed in the right direction? What areas of our church life together have become false idols and taken the place of the mission and discipleship to which God calls us?
 
In Revelation 2, we read of the message that God has for the church in Ephesus. First he praises them for the ways they have been faithful in their hard work and protecting truth in teaching. But then in verses 4-5 God gives them this correction: “But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”
 
As we celebrate all that God has done in and through our reformation churches that has been good and faithful, we also pause to take note of that today which is not good or perhaps even unfaithful. And I pray that we will listen to God’s correction and be obedient in our response to his command to repent and return to our first love. May God bless us as he continues to reform the church still today!
 
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Pastor Bryce Formwalt is the Director of Mission Growth for the LCMC Texas District. Residing in Georgetown, Pastor Bryce is available to coach congregations on mission. Feel free to contact him with any questions or comments: 512-942-7776 or bryce@lcmctexas.org.
 
 
© 2017 Bryce J. Formwalt, All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.
November 2017

HeBrews 10:24 –

A New Way to Start a Church

 
Fourteen months ago, God planted a seed in the heart of Chuck Knudson to go and live on mission in San Antonio. Today, after months of prayer, study, planning, and practicing, Chuck and his wife Azeneth are very close to fully living into this calling. One important question that every church planter has to answer is, “How are we going to engage our new neighbors? What will be our strategy to meet and connect people to a life-giving relationship of following Jesus?”
 
In their first few months of practicing evangelism in their current community of New Braunfels, the Knudsons discovered that while it is difficult for someone to accept an invitation to church, it is easy to accept an invitation into your home or a restaurant. And with this, God began to reveal to the Knudsons a unique approach to starting a church: coffee – more specifically, a local coffee shop featuring fresh-roasted coffee.
 
Chuck and Azeneth began envisioning a community coffee shop as a place to meet and engage new people in a casual and non-threatening environment while simultaneously generating the revenue needed to support their ongoing ministry efforts. They envisioned small groups, bible studies, discipleship classes, and recovery ministries meeting casually in this coffee shop. And they envisioned multiplying their impact by raising up new disciples of Jesus who could go live on mission and open coffee shop ministries in other neighborhoods across the city. And with that inspiration, HeBrews 10:24 Community Church was born “to stir up one another to love and good works!”
 
To help the Knudsons take the next step towards the coffee shop ministry that God has placed on their hearts, we are seeking to raise an initial $15,000 to cover the costs of starting the church-owned coffee roasting business. HeBrews 10:24 is looking to begin commercially roasting and marketing fresh-roasted coffee beans in the next six weeks, so your timely contribution is encouraged!
 
It is important to note that HeBrews 10:24 has a volunteer board that is working with Chuck and Azeneth as they launch this new ministry and they have also agreed to be accountable to the LCMC Texas District and weekly receive coaching from me. Even though this church planting strategy may sound unusual, you can rest assured that it is indeed a worthy investment in the Kingdom of God.
 
Would you please consider giving a generous contribution towards the HeBrews 10:24 vision for mission in San Antonio? All contributions are 100% tax deductible. You can make online contributions through our website at www.lcmctexas.org/give/. You can also send a check by mail to LCMC Texas District, 821 County Road 148, Georgetown, TX 78626. Please notate that the contribution is for San Antonio Mission. Thank you for your generous support and please pray for the Knudsons and for HeBrews 10:24!
 
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Pastor Bryce Formwalt is the Director of Mission Growth for the LCMC Texas District. Residing in Georgetown, Pastor Bryce is available to coach congregations on mission. Feel free to contact him with any questions or comments: 512-942-7776 or bryce@lcmctexas.org.
 
 
© 2017 Bryce J. Formwalt, All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.
October 2017

Beyond Boats and Babies

 

We recently concluded our 2017 LCMC Texas District Annual Gathering where we explored the question, “What does it mean multiply?” About 40 pastors and church leaders attended the Pre-Gathering Leadership Seminar to explore the biblical and theological foundations of multiplication. But before we dug in, we went around the room, introduced ourselves, and each answered the question, “What does ‘multiply’ mean to me?” The responses were wonderful! We began to see the rich diversity of thought and ideas regarding multiplication. And we even had a good chuckle or two. My favorite answer came from one of our pastors who simply answered “rabbits!”

To multiply means to bring a great increase, to make many, to reproduce, etc. And after we explored these various definitions, we asked this question: “What has multiplication looked like historically for Lutherans in America?” The two answers I was prepared for were stated from the group almost immediately: boats and babies.

For the most part in our American history, Lutheran churches grew and established more churches through an influx of immigration and children born to Lutheran parents. But eventually the boats stopped bringing Lutheran immigrants and birthrates in Lutheran families began to dwindle. So Lutheran church bodies focused their attention on Lutheran migration within our country, establishing new churches in places of population growth… the places where Lutherans were moving to. As you likely already know, this was the beginning of an extended period of decline for Lutherans in America that has persisted for generations.

The truth we are confronted with today is that God is calling the church to a deeper and more faithful understanding of and approach to multiplication. Multiplication isn’t about boats and babies. It isn’t about starting churches where Lutheran people move to. It isn’t about starting churches for conservative Lutherans who are stuck in liberal churches. And it certainly isn’t just about growing the spiritual depth of our church members. Instead, multiplication is about actual obedience to Christ’s command to go and make disciples of those who do not believe.

In Acts we read about thousands of people coming to faith in Jesus before the church even left Jerusalem. We read that daily people were coming to faith in Jesus and the church grew and grew. This is our hope for the church once again in America: that the Lord add daily to our numbers those who were being saved! That’s multiplication far beyond boats and babies! It starts with individuals and congregations pursuing obedience to Christ’s command instead of settling for a lesser vision for the church. So let’s be a first century church for the 21st century!
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Pastor Bryce Formwalt is the Director of Mission Growth for the LCMC Texas District. Residing in Georgetown, Pastor Bryce is available to coach congregations on mission. Feel free to contact him with any questions or comments: 512-942-7776 or bryce@lcmctexas.org.
 
 
© 2017 Bryce J. Formwalt, All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.
September 2017