Sabbatical Time

This article is going to be a little different than most. This month I share from my hurting—yet hopeful—heart as I look forward to what I think may be one of the most significant seasons of my life and ministry. In case you have not yet heard, I am extremely honored to be able to take a sabbatical for the first time in this my 20th year of ordained ministry and 7th year of ministry here in LCMC Texas. I will be taking two months of sabbatical and two weeks of vacation time and will be totally unplugged from my job responsibilities from November 1 through January 15.
 


Teamwork

Last month the world watched as the greatest athletes of our time assembled in Tokyo to compete and display their incredible athleticism and unique abilities. It is more than entertaining; it’s awe-inspiring. As remarkable as the individuals themselves may be, I always find myself drawn most to the team sports. The goal of the athletes competing in team sports is a little different than those in the individual sports. In a team sport, all parts of the team need to function in harmony as individuals partner with one another so well that they can almost begin to function as one. This is most awe-inspiring part of the Olympics for me.
 
In faith life, I similarly spectate how disciples of Jesus live out their faith on a daily basis. I am amazed by the incredible dedication and faithfulness that individuals demonstrate in living out their personal callings and I treasure these examples of the Holy Spirit active in the lives of God’s people! And yet what I find myself most drawn to are the examples of Christians in community that unite together around common goals and work in harmony to function as one.
 


Why Can’t Life Be Easy?

Why does life seem to be so hard? It is one of the age-old questions that can challenge our faith in God as the all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful deity that we profess him to be. Why do humans experience hardship, suffering, sickness, and persecution? How can God allow these terrible circumstances to befall anyone, let alone his faithful children?
 
In the Church, we are quick to place blame squarely on sin, and rightly so. For we live in a broken world where sin and evil cause chaos, confusion, and so much pain. But why does the God who loves us and holds the power to end our hardship and misery allow it to persist?
 


Christ Calls Waco Missionary Family

I am so excited to share about our latest church planting endeavor and introduce you to the missionary family who has accepted God’s call to move to Waco and replant Christ Lutheran Church! Chris Meyer has been called to live on mission and redevelop a community of faith to reach new people on the north side of Waco.
 
Chris hails from Thrall, Texas where he currently resides with his wife, Kelli, and their children: Wesley (13) and Claira (11). He is enrolled in Harvest Workers, our online ministry training program and serves as the program’s Student Recruitment Coordinator. He is employed full time by the State of Texas, working remotely as an EMS Specialist for the Department of Health and Human Services. Kelli currently works for an assisted living facility in Taylor and is pursuing a nursing degree.
 


Feeling Powerless?

Here in Texas, we are recovering from a very real crisis. An unprecedented winter storm lasting eight days brought five rounds of winter weather and record cold temperatures across the entire state. While it is true that other parts of the country routinely experience this kind of weather, this winter storm brought Texas to her knees. Due to record high electrical demand and power generation systems that were ill-prepared for cold weather, millions of Texans were left in the dark. And my family was one of them.
 
For over 68 hours we were without the power to keep the lights on, appliances going, furnace running to stay warm, or water systems flowing for drinking and sanitation. In so many ways, we were powerless. Literally we had no electrical power. But more than that, we were facing circumstances beyond our control. Yes, I do realize that I could purchase a whole-home generator and make sure that I always have an abundance of fuel on hand. This crisis has brought about a recognition of just how much we depend upon energy providers to power our homes.


Do You Believe in Miracles?!?

The 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, NY served as the backdrop for one of the most famous broadcasting calls in sports history. A rag-tag collection of amateurs made up the USA hockey team as they faced off against the best team in the world: the Soviet Union. Team USA seemingly had no chance going into the match. Yet as the final seconds ticked off the clock, the amateurs from the US had defeated the Soviets 4-3. Al Michaels famously asked his audience this unforgettable question: “Do you believe in miracles?!?”
 
This month we wrap up our four-part series on Jesus’ multiplication teaching from the feeding of the five thousand in Matthew 14. We believe that God is calling us to multiply disciples and churches and we’ve paused to learn all that we can from Jesus’ miracle of multiplication. So far, we established that multiplication starts with followers of Jesus being motivated with a burden for others; responding to Jesus’ call to do something about it by bringing Jesus what we have; and being obedient to Jesus’ command no matter how ridiculous it may seem.
 


Virtually Go Where You Cannot Go

Covid-19 has taken so much from us. So many of our normal routines have been disrupted and cultural norms have been turned upside down. Businesses, churches, schools, civic leaders and servants, healthcare providers and almost every family and household have all had to learn how to adapt. Global mission activity has also been deeply impacted.
 
Short-term mission trips have been a powerful tool to not only do great, kingdom-building ministry around the world, but also to meaningfully engage everyday followers of Jesus in the mission of Jesus while opening their eyes to mission opportunities around them in their own communities. But how can these Jesus’ followers go in a Covid-19 era of travel bans? Recently, a member of one of our churches shared a solution for the countless now cancelled short-term mission trips that had been planned.
 


Missional Accountability

Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ is in the midst of a significant transition: Our Board of Trustees is in the final stages of identifying the next Service Coordinator to lead our church body as Mark Vander Tuig retires after ten years in that role. As a part of the transition, leaders from across the association gathered for an assessment guided by Bob Logan of Logan Leadership. In this assessment, several keys for the future of our association were identified.
 
For me, the most significant takeaway was our need to develop our “missional accountability.” What does this mean? As an association, we have four core values: Free in Christ, Accountable to one another, Rooted in the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, and Fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission to go and make disciples. While each of the four core values are important, the last identifies our purpose. And what Bob Logan helped us recognize is that while we hold one another accountable to Scripture, theology and morality, we have had little to no accountability for our mission to go and make disciples.
 


What Are We Devoting Ourselves To?

The Day of Pentecost is upon us this year on May 31. Each year we pause to celebrate the birthday of the church and the day when the Holy Spirit was made manifest in powerful ways in and through the followers of Jesus as recounted in the second chapter of Acts. It is a day to remember that the Holy Spirit continues to work in and through the followers of Jesus today in small and mighty ways and to pray for God to revive and renew the Church through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. It is indeed my prayer that the Day of Pentecost is a beautiful celebration and that Holy Spirit once again moves with power in and through followers of Jesus the world over.
 
But perhaps even more important than the activity on the Day of Pentecost is what happens next. In Acts 2:42-47 we read about what the followers of Jesus were up to after this glorious day: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. … They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”


What Business Are We In?

A colleague recently sent me a thought-provoking article entitled “Leading Beyond the Blizzard” by Andy Crouch, Kurt Keilhacker, and Dave Blanchard. The article posed important questions for businesses and organizations to consider in light of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The authors suppose that this crisis that we are currently in will significantly reshape culture like nothing anyone alive today has seen before. They forecast that we are not in a blizzard (like many first thought) during which time we hunker down to wait out the passing storm, nor is it a bleak extended season of winter in which we long for spring to eventually arrive, but rather that COVID-19 is perhaps ushering in the beginning of an ice age that could endure for years to come.
 
Whether or not the result of this crisis is a long winter or the beginning of an ice age, the authors suggest that organizations, including the church, need to redefine our business as COVID-19 has shut us down: “If your nonprofit organization depends on gathering people in medium or large groups – and it is truly daunting to consider how many do, whether for fundraising banquets, afterschool programs, or in the case of churches for corporate worship – you are not in the same business today. And this is not just a blizzard that you can wait out.”