Sunday, December 19, 2010

You did it!

You did it!
You gave like I hoped and prayed you would.
You received a challenge and stepped up to it.
The hope has been that we, as one local congregation, could make a big difference for others.
The invitation has been given over the past several weeks and concluded today.

  • to Worship (God)  Fully 
  • to Spend Less ($)
  • to Give More (self & time)
  • to Love All (with grace & peace)
Today's love offering for Destiny Rescue, Dave & Beth Watters, and Transforming Wesleyan Church of Detroit was awesome!  (I am pumped to share $5,500 amongst these deserving ministries.)

Thanks for being generous with your love and your money.  Thanks for evaluating what you and your family needs vs. wants.

You did it.  Thanks.
May God be praised.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

252 Basics

If First Look provides children with their first impression about God, 252 Basics provides them with the truth about God that they need as they grow up. 252 Basics is so named because of Luke 2:52, which says, "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." 252 Basics is for children in 1st through 6th grades. Over the course of three years, students hear 150 Bible stories that communicate 36 virtues, all designed with 3 basic truths in mind.

1. I need to make the wise choice.
2. I can trust God no matter what.
3. I should treat others the way I want to be treated.

Here is a video that provides an introduction to this curriculum, which also will be launched in February.

If you'd like to be a part of helping our children grow up like Jesus did, we'd love to have you a few times a month. If you think this is children's church like it's always been, you'll get a pleasant surprise. Our goal is to make Sunday morning the best hour of a child's week. Here are a few roles you could fill (similar to those of First Look):

1. Small group leaders who build relationships with kids through activities, games and memory verses.
2. Hosts who introduce the storyteller and lesson for the day.
3. A worship coordinator who leads our 4th through 6th grade students in singing as the worship team.
4. Storytellers who communicate the bottom line for the week in creative ways. Don't worry, the script is already written. You just have to use it!
5. Tech people who run the audio/video from the back.
6. True behind the scenes people who get all the crafts and activities ready for small group leaders.

Our goal is to make volunteering as easy as possible for you. If you're a host, that's your only responsibility. If you teach, you won't have to worry about the worship music or getting activities ready. I'm excited for what this means for thinking orange and partnering with parents as well as the further spiritual growth of our children. Be sure to look back here later this week for an update on youth ministry and the way it fits with preschool and children's ministry at NBWC.

Monday, December 13, 2010

First Look

When it comes to a relationship with Christ, many of us can't remember a time when we weren't a Christian. Sure, we all go through a time of making what was our parents' relationship our own, but our earliest experiences with Jesus and the church form us for a lifetime. That's why we're excited to begin using First Look during children's church on Sunday morning. It's for kids ages 18 months (or so) through kindergarten.

First Look teaches three basic truths:
1. God made me.
2. God loves me.
3. Jesus wants to be my friend forever.

While we won't start this until February 2011, take a look at this video now to get a basic overview.

If you want to be a part of giving a child their first look at their heavenly Father, we'd love to have you join us a couple times a month during the worship service. You're invited to be a part of making Sunday morning the best hour of a preschooler's week in one of the following ways:

1. Small group leaders who build relationships with kids through crafts and memory verses.
2. Hosts who introduce kids to the lesson for the day.
3. Puppeteers who "sing" with the worship and assist the storyteller in telling the story.
4. A worship coordinator who leads our younger elementary students in learning songs, because they will be the worship team for our preschoolers.
5. Storytellers who communicate the truth of Scripture in a meaningful way, with the puppets, for 10-12 minutes each morning.
6. True behind the scenes people who make copies, cut things out, and get all the activities ready for small group leaders each month.

You can talk to Pastor Josh for more details. I'll also be making phone calls this week to talk to you about joining us! Look back later in the week for information about 252 Basics, the companion curriculum for elementary students!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Local Jesus

I'm not sure how your community celebrates Jesus.  Maybe your community doesn't do anything.  I hope it does something.   Here's a snapshot at how my town celebrates!

This caught my eye for a few reasons:
  • Joseph is man enough to wear pink.  Way to go man!
  • Jesus is depicted as being born next to a...pallet.  
  • The Christmas scene is still accepted in my town.  Go North Branch. 
And why wouldn't a Nativity Scene include a pallet?  Jesus was likely born in a pretty simple and basic location anyway; although most assume there was little more coverage than a single pallet.  Probably a cave or barn of some sort.

To consider that God made himself know to us through his son Jesus is amazing.  Theologically this is called the Incarnation.  As a result of the incarnation, a love gift, humanity has been impacted on multiple dimensions.
What is so striking is that Jesus was come to earth to meet us on our turf.  Isaiah 66:1 says the heavens are God's throne and the earth is God's footstool.  So although God has always been connected to his creation in Jesus he showed how deeply connected he desires to be.  

Pallet, barn, cave.  Doesn't matter.  The reality is Jesus has come.  He has come full of grace and truth (John 1:14).  He has come for me and he has come for you.  

Friday, November 19, 2010

Season of Giving

This Sunday we launch into a season of giving. 
  • The Angel Tree will be set up on the foyer with names of children whose parents are in prison.  This is an opportunity to provide gifts for these children.  
  • Sunday @ 6pm is the Community Thanksgiving service @ Country Christian Church.  Such a cool service.  Please come prepared to give to the non-perishible goods offering and/or the financial offering that will be received. (p.s., teens will meet @ 5:40 and cruise over in the van for this service.  A stop for Ice Cream after the service is included.)
  • I am excited to begin a new sermon series, Advent Conspiracy.  This Sunday we'll investigate what it means to [Worship Fully] using Exodus 10:24-28 as our text.  Remember, December 19 we will receive a special offering for three great ministries:  Transforming Wesleyan Church of Detroit, Destiny Rescue and, Dave & Beth Watters-missionaries to Haiti.
  • December 13 we will host another Grocery Giveaway as part of our season of giving.  5 pm.
Thanks for praying for our church and our impact on our community.  Pray that the name and love of Jesus Christ will be evident in all we do.  He descended from heaven to earth so that we might know God's love and find our forgiveness in Him.


Thursday, November 18, 2010


Is this the true message of the Christmas Season?

Sunday we start a new sermon series inspired from the folks at  This week, Worship Fully.  Themes for the weeks to come:  Spend Less, Give More, Love All.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Integrating Strategy

One of the reasons we like Think Orange is that it integrates the strategy of how we disciple children and teenagers. In other words, the things we do when a child is 4 years old are quite similar to what we do when he or she is 14 years old. Because our goal is to make disciples that will both stick with the church after high school graduation and continue to make disciples themselves, our children's ministry and youth ministry can begin to work together to reach that goal. One of the ways we work together is by integrating the strategy. That is, we can begin to think together about the ways each ministry of our church fits with the next, how children's church prepares kids for youth group and how youth group prepares students for entering a small group...

Reggie Joiner writes in the Think Orange Leader Handbook about the consequences of NOT integrating strategy. His six statements are in bold with my comments afterward. 

1. Parents struggle with how to partner with the church. If moms and dads aren't sure how AWANA fits with children's church, or how a special youth event fits with Sunday nights, or how any of those things work to make a disciple, then they won't bring their children to them. 

2. Programming and ministry tend to be random and isolated in impact. We may brainstorm about great ideas and events that we could do, but if they don't fit the strategy, or if they compete with existing programs that do fit the strategy, we won't implement the new ideas. 

3. There is no consistent forum to evaluate and change ineffective programming. A strategy provides great guidelines for determining whether or not we are "on target." 

4. Leaders and volunteers get disillusioned with the lack of direction. Just like you put down a book if it's going nowhere in the first few chapters, so do leaders and volunteers quit if they perceive the program to be "going nowhere."

5. Staff members drift toward silo thinking. That is, Peter does what Peter wants and Josh does what Josh wants without talking with one another. Or, children's ministry does what it wants and youth ministry does what it wants. This type of thinking is impossible with a strategy in place. 

6. Over-programming and competing systems dilute the effectiveness of the church. Leaders and families end up with too many options and too many things to be involved in. In the end, the temptation is for us to choose nothing when the choices get numerous. 

So what does this mean for us in practical terms? 

1. Our children's ministry and youth ministry leaders will begin talking together on a regular basis about how each one's programming affects the family and schedule. 
2. Our children's ministry has made the decision to move to First Look and 252 Basics curriculum starting in February 2011 for children's church. FYI: We'll be sitting down with parents on Sunday December 5 after service to introduce you to it. 
3. We will evaluate our programming based on whether or not it fits our strategy. We will "edit" when necessary. No church gets it right the first time every time. 
4. You will hear us use phrases like "another voice saying the same thing as parents" to describe small group leaders or "family experiences" to describe activities designed for the whole family to engage in outside of your time in this building. These are part of the strategy. 

So, what are your thoughts? What would you add to the conversation?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Come Together

Ephesians 1:3-10 is an incredible passage of scripture.  We have just concluded 7 weeks unpacking verbs that are inserted into these verses.  It's been a lot of fun.  The sermon series was called, God Story; from Infinity to Belong.

A couple observations:
a) God has done so much for us
b) All his actions hinge on Jesus Christ
c) His actions are aimed at us and are intended for us to live out (ie. see the remained of the book of Ephesians)

As we wrapped things up today it was easy to show a couple reasons God has done all that he has.  First, I believe there is a tendency among people - Christian or not - to finger point.  We are pretty quick to talk about "them".  When we realize the personal nature of God's actions it chips away at this tendency.  Ephesians 1 also teaches that Christ has come to put everything back in its place.  NT Wright would say, "put things to right."  There's a unifying factor found in him - and again, this gets personal.  His involvement in the story is intended to have impact on my life and yours.

In our attempts to be the church we (I) sometimes forget how important it is to be together.  I forget how important is is to experience something together.

But sometimes we (I) make the church about me rather than about knowing others, serving with others, and serving for others.

Let me suggest that serving together is an incredible way to make church "about us" without making it "about me".  Serving together has an powerful unifying effect.  Doing work together is so cool.  In particular, this is great for men.

@ NBWC this week we have some great opportunities to come together.
Wednesday, AWANA takes place--serving 60+ elementary students.
Thursday, we host a Grocery Giveaway--serving 150+ family units
Friday, we'll be setting up for the Autumn Vendor Fair scheduled for Saturday--hosting 70+ local vendors.

I say, get in the game.  This is about you.  This is about you and me.  This is about us.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Get Some Rest

Halloween is over and done. Are you over your sugar high yet? I wonder if Halloween fits well in our holiday schedule, since all the candy we consume at the end of October and beginning of November serves to keep us going through the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving and Christmas? Just a thought.

If you’re like me, you know that this time of year only amps up what was already a busy schedule with more busyness. It doesn’t end. For some of us, what we really need is not sugar or caffeine intravenously pumped into our arms. We need more than just a few days off work around Christmas; we even need more than a month off to detox and be refreshed.

What we really need is a rhythm of rest. No, I did not just cuss at you. This isn’t a curse word or an impossible ideal. It’s a spiritual truth that even Jesus communicated to His disciples and practiced. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). 

I remember one of my first chapel lessons as a freshman at Indiana Wesleyan University. Keith Drury, one of the professors of religion, spoke about how the temptation for us would be to bask in our freedom and compete with our roommates for who could pull the all-nighters. And then he said that rest is a spiritual issue that we should not take lightly. He’s right. If we are called to be holy—set apart to God—what better way than to get rest when the rest of the world doesn’t?

Listen to what James Bryan Smith says in his book, The Good and Beautiful God.

“The number one enemy of Christian spiritual formation today is exhaustion…. According to numerous studies, the average person needs approximately eight hours of sleep in order to maintain health. This tells me that God has designed humanity to spend nearly one-third of our lives sleeping.”

He continues: “What does this have to do with Christian spiritual formation? The human person is not merely a soul housed in a body. Our bodies and souls are unified. If our bodies suffer, so do our souls.” If we want God to form us into the image of Christ, sleep must be one of the first areas we surrender to God. As an act of trust, we tell Him, “Father, I know there is more I could do. I am trusting you to guide me this week, to help me fulfill my responsibilities in less time than what I’m used to.”

You say, “But you don’t know what my schedule looks like. There’s no way I can get eight hours of sleep a night.” Maybe you can’t this week, but I know it’s possible. Find a time to go to bed and a time to get up, and stick with them. For me it is 11:00PM and 7:00AM.

And just think: As we allow God to form us spiritually, our children, our families, and our friends have an inside track to the grace and provision of God in us. By the simple act of sleeping eight hours a night, we speak volumes to those around us.

So when are you going to bed tonight?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Let's have a cup together

Welcome to the Juice.
You're asking, "What is it?"

It's the skinny         The low down         The info          The whats-what          The facts, ma'am
The happenings          The definition          The word          The word up          The scoop
The insider news

In short, it is a place where we have another opportunity to converse about what is happening in and talked about at North Branch Wesleyan Church.  

Our church is like many others.  It happens too often like this; you missed that meeting or were out of town for a couple weekends and now feel as though you have missed some key information.  It goes deeper than this.  If you regular serve in key ministry areas you may feel like you are detached from what is happening in the life of the church.  We believe we can do better in our communication efforts.  

the Juice
is one way we want to keep the conversation alive.   It is one way we will partner together to influence our families and our community.

So let's have a cup of juice together.