Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thank you!

Dear Readers,
Thank you for following this blog. Within the next twelve months I will be involved in a “project” that is in a country that is VERY unfriendly to Jesus’ followers and any type of evangelism effort is against the law. This “project” is with a previously “unreached” people group. There have been a couple of people who have given their lives to Jesus as a result of this project. So that my presence will not hind this important Kingdom work, I will be deleting the content of any of my church-related blogs. All blog content will be deleted before January 1, 2010.

I pray that you will draw close to Jesus this Advent.

Additionally, please pray for the efforts to reach the wonderful folks of this people group.

God’s blessings upon you!!


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Worship on August 2, 8 & 9

Before talking about my latest worship experiences I need to clarify (apologize) for some comments that I have made concerning my vacation’s worship experiences.
• It has been a joy to worship at many different churches. The Lord touched my heart at each church. The people and pastors at those churches love the Lord and seek to serve and worship him.
• Secondly, scripture says that steel sharpens steel. Pastor’s have very few opportunities to see what other churches are doing. I have learned a lot from attending other churches. My comments concerning my worship experiences were not meant to be harsh, demeaning or critical. I am truly sorry if my comments offended or hurt anyone. I know that there are Sundays where the music at Evergreen isn’t as good as it should be. I know that there are times when people will say that the sermon was boring. The problem is that people very seldom ever tell the pastor!!! I hope that people will lovingly tell me when things in the service don’t go well. I think that we/I should strive to give Yahweh our/my best effort EVERY Sunday – and every day throughout the week.
• Third, I hope to implement some things I have experienced at other churches at Evergreen!!

Worship at Beit Tefillah
Beit Tefillah is a messianic congregation in Gig Harbor, Washington. The “pastor” (my term, not theirs) of the church is Brent Emory. Brent is a good friend and has preached for me when I am out of town. Our churches have celebrated the Seder together. Brent came to the 10th anniversary celebration that Evergreen gave for me and he came to the celebration of the 25th anniversary of Evergreen’s chartering as a Presbyterian Church.

Beit Tefillah means “house of prayer.”

Things that I learned/was reminded of at Beit Tefillah:
• Jesus’ Bible was our Old Testament! Jesus was a student of the scriptures and quoted them often. Without the Hebrew Scriptures we would not have a New Testament (Apostolic scriptures to my messianic friends).
• Most Christians (including me) are woefully illiterate concerning the Old Testament – this is unacceptable. The New Testament clearly states that we are “grafted” into the root of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jesus said that he did not come to do away with even the smallest of the laws of the Old Testament. Scripture clearly tells us to study Torah and to teach it to our children.
• Beit Tefillah has a “potluck” lunch following every worship service. A common meal helps to bring people together and build community.

My only concern is going to make me sound like a broken record – the lack of being welcomed by people in the church. Brent and his wife did a good job of welcoming me. Brent welcomed me from the front of the church at the beginning and end of worship. He even asked people to greet me -- and the other visitor. And yet, not one person said a word to me until I sat down at a table to eat lunch. I talked to the other visitor until some other people sat at the table. I talked with a couple of people while eating. The conversation was all about “them” – they didn’t try to learn anything about me! Had I not stayed for the meal, the only two people who would have spoken to me were the pastor and his wife (and I know both of them). This experience has happened at most churches I have visited!

Note: The next to church were visited specifically because they are “satellite” campuses of a church. Evergreen has a sister church in Kake, Alaske -- a small Tlingit village in Southeast Alaska. (Note: our youth groups is in Kake this week leading a vacation Bible school.) Kake Memorial Presbyterian Church is so small that they might never have another pastor. There have been some very preliminary discussion about video taping Evergreen’s sermon for use in Kake.

Mars Hill West Seattle
Our experience at Mars Hill West Seattle was VERY favorable. Their worship team used several old hymns (that have been arranged in a newer style). The church was filled with young families. They meet in an older church building that have done a good job in making it “feel” a lot like the original Mars Hill. Those who like a traditional church will not like the way they have used curtains/drapes/cloth to cover most of the traditional platform area. I am sure that they do this (in part) to manage the ambient light entering the sanctuary – they need to control ambient light to have high quality video. Mark (from Mars Hill Ballard) preaches via video. Until a month ago the message as streaming live. They discontinued this due to technical challenges. All of Mars Hill’s satellite campuses show the message from “last” Sunday.

Things I learned:
• “Streaming” the message is very difficult. If Mars Hill has challenges in streaming the message from one side of Seattle to other sites in Seattle then it would be nearly impossible to have a good experience of streaming a message to Kake – with Kake’s spotty internet service.
• The family in front of us “welcomed” us and talked with us!! This was the first time this has happened all summer!!!!!!!!! Yet, they were the only ones to talk to us.

Light House Christian Center Gem Heights (Puyallup, Washington)
Light House started as a church worshipping on Saturday nights in Puyallup. They have grown so much that they added several Sunday morning services at their main campus. They added another service several miles south in a junior high school. There has been tremendous population growth in that part of Pierce County. We had a good experience at the church!

Things I learned:
• They had a good plan for welcoming visitors! The two greeters quickly determined that we were first time visitors and IMMEDIATELY got a person to talk with us!! This person talked with us before and after the service. He did a good job of telling us about their worship, video message, etc.
• They have a greeting time/food and coffee time during the service. We had been told that we were free to have food and coffee before the service and that there would be a short time in worship for people to greet each other and to get more coffee and goodies. They served coffee from a neighborhood coffee shop.
• A high school girl (who sings in their worship team) walked across the worship area (during the break) to welcome us to worship!! She was very friendly and welcoming.
• We knew all of the worship songs. A person who listens to Christian radio or worship CDs would know the songs.
• Videoing the message is not easy. The “sound” on the video did not match up with the lips that were talking. I spoke to our “visitor greeter person” and he said that it was a regular problem. They contact the tech people at the home church when it happens. This is something Evergreen will have to be careful about if we video our messages.

• Here goes the broken record. Let me begin by saying that this church has been the best of all the churches we have visited in dealing with visitors. Still, only one “unofficial” person talked to us! The original greeter at the door (who took us to the visitor greeter person) sat two rows in front of me during worship. During the greeting time (or after worship) he never said a word to us – even though he knew we were first time visitors. The person sitting in front of us never said a word to us. I know that most visitors want to remain fairly anonymous; still, I think a certain amount of general friendliness to visitors should be the norm – not the exception! Once again, a big “THANK YOU” to the high school student that came over and welcomed us!!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Worship on Sunday, July 26.

Once again we attended two different churches on Sunday. The first church is called Soma (http://www.somacommunities.org/). Soma is located in downtown Tacoma. There were about 100 – 120 people in worship. Soma worships in a renovated warehouse/commercial building. They have done an excellent job of making the space a good place for worship—even though they do not have air conditioning.

Thoughts concerning Soma:
• Chairs, tables, sofas and skinny-butt chairs—The folks at Soma have been very creative in putting together a very “warm” or “friendly” or “comfortable” worship center. The “front row” of each of the four sections were sofas!! Kids (prior to Children’s church/class) occupied on sofa. A family with two young kids came in and sat in the second row of their “section” – with the kids heading straight for the sofa! Throughout the sanctuary were wing-back arm chairs. Moms holding small babies occupied some of these chairs. I believe that every one of these chairs was filled. Additionally, little tables (like round “end” tables were throughout the worship area. Picture this: four or five regular chairs, then a end table, an arm chair, another end table, another arm chair, then five or six regular chairs. Bibles were on the end tables. People put their coffee, iced tea or water on the end tables. Very cool. My one criticism is the skinny-butt chairs. All but one of the churches we have visited use chairs instead of pews. This was the first church that had skinny-butt chairs. It is almost impossible for an adult to fit on their chair and not have “contact” with the person sitting on the next chair. No church should EVER have skinny-butt chairs!
• Food following worship—Food was provided following worship to encourage people to stay around and talk. No one person was responsible for providing the food. They were very upfront about encouraging people to bring food to share with the entire church. If no one brings food then there is no food that day. This is a great way to encourage EVERYONE to be involved in the food ministry.
• Music, the two-man band—The worship band was so-so. There was an acoustic guitar and a base guitar. It was obvious that their drummer was absent that day--drums with no one using them. Songs were done in a done in a key that a “regular” person would have trouble singing in.
• The one hour sermon—I do not mind a sermon that last an hour(see my notes on the next church)—if the teaching is good and the delivery is good. The content was very biblical. My whole family felt that he could have covered everything is much less time. The preacher spent too much time “reading” his notes to us.
• Neighborhood Bible studies/small groups—The church uses neighborhood small groups. The plus is that the groups are made up of people of all ages. The minus is that the groups are made up of people of all ages. Our daughter is looking for a church home with good Bible studies. She commented that she would not feel comfortable in a small group with older single men. The bottom line—she wants a group that is around her own age.
• Visitor friendliness—NOT A SINGLE CHURCH WE HAVE VISITED WAS PARTICULARLY “WARM” TO VISITORS!!!!!!!! One of the pastors welcomed us before worship. One person that I know came up to talk to us after church. Not another person even said “Hi” to me!! We stayed for food. We looked at their book sales table. No interaction from anyone!!
• Bible driven—The church is very open about Jesus, salvation, sin, the Bible, etc. Very refreshing!
• An epidemic of pregnant women and very young kids—The church had lots of young families. There were a few people older than me, but not many. There were very few people in the 20-25 age group.

Overall impression: Soma has many things going for it. God bless their ministry!

Mars Hill Ballard—take two!
Mars Hill has four worship services each Sunday: two in the morning and two in the evening. A couple of weeks ago we attended the earliest service and this week we attended the last service.

Thoughts about Mars Hill:
• A much younger crowd—The later service was a MUCH younger crowd than the early service. I would guess that 80+% of the people were between the ages of 18 and 30. The place was PACKED!!!!
• Music—I loved the music at the later service. The “style” of music at the earlier service would appeal to a younger crowd than me. I found it interesting that the particular “styles” were at those service—and not reversed!
• Great preaching—Mark is a GREAT preacher/teacher! Period. End of story.
• The hour+ sermon—Mark preaches for an hour. Sunday night he preached for 65 minutes (I could see the count-down timer above one of the video cameras). The sermon did not “feel” long. I did not see a single person lose interest or get fidgety.

The bottom line: I would recommend Mars Hill to anyone looking for a church!!!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Worship at Adventure of Faith Church

Yesterday we went to worship at Adventure of Faith Church in Port Orchard, Washington. Adventure is a Presbyterian church, although one may not recognize it as such. Previously, our elders had visited worship at Adventure. I was unable to attend.

Their web site states that they have two Sunday worship services. The earlier service is billed as “mainstream contemporary worship with a touch of traditional.” The later service is billed as “contemporary worship on the cutting edge.” Our church does a good job of blending contemporary and traditional worship styles; therefore, we attend the later service.

To be honest, I was disappointed. The preaching was fine. The rest of the service was “contemporary” but far from “cutting edge.” I had hoped to find a Presbyterian church that was doing something more along the lines of Mars Hill or Saddleback.

Positive things:
• Good signage in the church. Outside signs even directed a visitor to the “front” door.”
• Welcome booth was easy to locate.
• Coffee was in the main hallway—near the information booth.
• Mission information was also in the main hallway.
• Coffee-shop-style-tables were in the rear of the sanctuary so that people could eat a bagel or a donut during worship.
• An “alter call” was given at the end of the service.

Interesting things:
• All food served at the church had to be purchased (bagels, donuts, yogurt, etc.)
• The only time anyone said anything to us was at the “official” shake hands time—and then they only said “hello.” No one else said anything to us during our entire visit. On second thought, the greeters said “hello” to us when they handed us the bulletin. So far, none of the three churches we have visited were “welcoming.”

Adventure’s style is geared to those who have been in church before, even if they do not currently attend a church.

Final thoughts: If I were to go to Adventure again I would attend the first service. I have heard that the music is quite good that that service. The music at the second service was slightly “above average” at best.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Worship last Sunday – Mars Hill and University Presbyterian Church

One major component of my “vacation” involves worshipping at other churches. It is a rare occasion when a pastor gets the opportunity of worship at another church. Well, this summer I will have several opportunities to worship at other churches.

Of course, the best thing about visiting other churches is that I can sit with my wife and daughter during worship!! Following worship we discuss the things we liked and the things we didn’t care for (or thought that they could have done better).

Last Sunday (July 12) we went to Seattle and attend Mars Hill Church in Ballard AND University Presbyterian Church. Wow!! Talk about different churches!!

Overall Summary: I would gladly attend Mars Hill every Sunday. I have been to U. Pres. and have absolutely no desire to go back.

Mars Hill Summary
• The Preaching: Mark (the pastor) preached for about 45 minutes. He is in the final weeks of a series on 1 and 2 Peter. The preaching was biblical. He stuck with the text and really challenged the congregation to submit to the text. He stressed that when our “belief system” differed from the biblical text we need to transform our belief system to come into conformity to the text.
• Communion every Sunday: Communion at the end of each worship service. Communion is served by intinction—going forward to receive the bread and then dipping it in the wine/juice. There were many stations where people could go to receive communion. The lines were fairly short and moved quickly. The person holding the “cup” was actually holding two cups – one labeled “juice” and one “wine.”
• Preparation for the sermons: Mark “publishes” a book of study material for the entire sermon series. There are daily Bible readings for each week. Small groups (called “community groups) discuss the “homework” and the messages.
• Community groups stressed: Community groups were mentioned MANY times in the message and at other parts of the worship.
• Age diversity in worship: Being 52-years young, I was truly afraid that I would be the oldest person in the congregation. WRONG!! We parked about a block from the church. Before we had walked 10 feet I spotted two people that were older than me!! There we many people older that me -- by many years. One member of the four person worship band was older than me! The congregation was filled with people of all ages. Yes, the larges demographic group was the 18 – 30 year olds.
• Technology and lighting: The lighting and technology were WELL DONE!!!
• Ear plugs were available for any one who does not like loud music!

Could be done better:
• Couldn’t tell where the front door is. Actually, I think that every door was a “front” door.
• No one talked to us – even at the “greeting” time.

We plan on going to a Sunday night service at some point this summer. We understand that it is more interactive and cutting edge (Twitter is encouraged).

University Presbyterian Church Summary

• A very good choir: One would expect nothing less.
• The “unusual” sermon: The pastor had been preaching through “Pilgrims Progress.” A local television personality did a wonderful job with the pastor as they portrayed two characters from the book.
• Parking lots: The church has access to several parking lots. We had to drive around the block while waiting for the earlier worship service to end.

Could be done better:
• Lack of age diversity: I might be wrong, but I believe that our 24 year old daughter was the youngest person in the sanctuary! I was definitely younger that the “average” person in the sanctuary. I was SHOCKED at how old the church appeared to be. (Note: Classes for kids were at the earlier service. Therefore, it is possible that the parents were at that service.)
• No one said anything to me.
• The lady at the “information” table had no idea as to what was in the various brochures that were available there.
• The “Men’s Room” was difficult to find. The “Lady’s Room” was easy to find.
• Technology… what technology? The highest tech thing in the church that I saw was a microphone. There was no “technology” in the narthex or any where else that we walked. The wireless microphones were the only technology upgrade since the 1950’s.

A person that prefers a “traditional” style of worship will prefer U Pres. A person that prefers a “non-traditional” style of worship will prefer Mars Hill. A person who values age diversity will prefer Mars Hill.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Back from the San Juan Islands

Photos: Glenn and Ken, Brenda, Skye Reach, the family, sunset at Shallow Bay on Sucia Island. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

The first part of my vacation was to the San Juan Islands. I captained the sailing vessel Skye Reach (a sailing catamaran). Ken Graves, my nephew Collin and I took the boat from Shilshole Bay, Seattle to Anacortes. Then, Collin headed home and Brenda and Theo (our wives) joined us. We traveled through many of the best anchorages in the islands. The temperatures were in the mid to upper 80's (hot for Washington). We had a total of 13 people spend time on the boat (Brenda and I, our kids Alyssa and Forrest, Ken and Theo Graves, Glenn and Tami Malone, Al & Cathy Isaac, Tony and Joy Cook, and Collin). The boat is back in its slip. We are back home. A great trip.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The first day...

Some things change. Some things stay the same.

My early morning ritual of going to The Oasis and doing my through the Bible in 90 days continued on this the first morning of my vacation. One cup of coffee down and one to go!

I suppose that it is fitting that today's reading covered the transition from David's reign to that of Solomon. The transfer of power took place while David was still living. In a sense, a "transfer" is beginning at Evergreen today. The voice mail on my cell phone has been changed to refer callers to the church office for things pertaining to Evergreen. Today I begin to screen calls--the wife, kids and family members will have their calls answered; all other calls (with a few exceptions) will go to voice mail to be dealt with as time allows. No visits to the hospital or nursing home. Other people will cover those bases. No sermons notes to work on today. No music to get ready for Sunday. No worship bulletin to be done on Thursday. The transition is beginning.

It feels really STRANGE. Today I will mow the lawn, re-pot peppers that are in the greenhouse and work in the dahlias.