Vision 2014

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At Redeemer by the Sea, we are BLESSED with so many gifted and talented leaders.  We have on our Church Council and Board of Elders such a variety of life experience and skills; everything from military to corporate, education to government, and sales to service is represented!  But perhaps what is most encouraging is not the diversity that everyone brings, but the common goals that unite us.  Regardless of background, what everyone shares is a passion for God’s people and a love of our community!  We recognize though, that it is easy to pit those two things (passion for God’s people, and love of our community) against each other – focusing on one at the expense of the other.  This is something we do not want to do.

We have been studying Christian Discipleship the last couple months during our “Best is Yet to Come” series, so we are keenly aware of the importance of gathering in community for prayer, encouragement and growth.  But we are also reminded of Jesus words from Matthew 20:28 that, “the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve,” and from Luke 19:10, that He came “to Seek and Save the Lost.”  As God’s people, we must gather together and build up the Body of Christ, but we cannot only gather and build up.  Otherwise, we are like the marathoner who only carbo-loads, but never runs.  The image is simple, but glaring!  We gather as Church to be equipped for service – not to sit and soak, but to build up for the purpose of reaching out.

That was the focus of this year’s Vision Retreat. On October 25-26 our Church Council and Board of Elders met to discuss how we could both disciple the saved and reach the lost.  Even the shape of our retreat followed the build-up – then work model!  We met with spouses at the Burkholder residence on Friday and enjoyed a relaxing evening of community around conversation and food.  Then on Saturday from 8am to 3pm we worked hard on the Kingdom tasks that God has put before us – seeking His heart for the future of our congregation.

We focused our efforts on two areas that God has put on my heart as pastor recently: 1. The book “Doing Church as a Team” by Wayne Cordiero.  And 2. The focus of two conferences that I attended recently which were both on the same theme: reaching and saving the lost.  There is a definite trend in our churches today to recognize that ministry 1. Cannot be from the “top down.”  There is just too much work to do to leave it to the leaders and the professionals.  And 2. We can get so inward focused in our ministry that we are effectively of no value to our community.   So at the vision retreat we asked two big questions:  How can we mobilize more of our church into active discipleship and ministry? And would the community around our church miss us if we were not here?

We worked through the book chapter by chapter, with each member of the Board leading the discussion on a chapter, and we then worked on a strategic planning process that guided us all the way from how our congregation began to where we are today.   We reviewed our mission, core values and strategy of Worship, Grow & Serve, and we asked the questions: Where are we now? Where are we headed? What’s Important Now? What structure and activity is necessary to accomplish those things? And what must change in order to accomplish those objectives?

The outcomes of the process will be shared in more detail soon.  However, the upshot of the event is that we recognize that we need to nurture our existing members as disciples of Jesus, but we must also do a much better job at reaching our community for Jesus.  We have a good means to that nurture and growth with our Growth Groups.  But in 2014 we plan to do a much better job of training small group leaders and starting new groups as well as asking our small groups to work on service projects together, in addition to their study and fellowship.   Also in 2014, we will establish a task force to actively study and poll our community to determine what needs exist that we can best serve.  We don’t want to be so “heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good,” as they say!  Our local government, community agencies, schools – and even our own preschool – are well aware of the hurts, pains and struggles that are going on behind the doors of our beautiful homes, manicured landscapes and community spaces.  Finally, we will improve some logistics and administration items in 2014 that affect our growing Sunday School, as well as our internal communications.

Whatever we do in the New Year, we will be sure that we do not do alone; we must “Do Church as a Team!”  Working together, we can accomplish more for God’s Kingdom than we could ever accomplish alone.  Please begin to pray how God will use you in 2014 to help Redeemer by the Sea seek and save the lost.  And please pray that there will be more souls in heaven on the Last Day because of what we do today!

In ministry with you,

Pastor Augie

Wiki and District Conference Highlights!

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I am blessed to be part of a congregation that encourages continued growth and learning.  This Fall I attended the Wiki Conference 2013 hosted by the FiveTwo Network in Katy, TX.   The following week, I attended the annual Pacific Southwest District Pastors’ Conference in Scottsdale, AZ. Both conferences were excellent and brought lots of insights as well as a healthy dose of clarity and conviction for doing the Lord’s work wherever the Lord has you planted!  Here is a brief summary of some of the highlights of those conferences:

At the District Pastors’ Conference: “Seek and Save the Lost” …

Barna Research Group owner/President and author David Kinnaman shared with us some concepts from his book You Lost Me, illuminating what he calls “Nomads, Prodigals and Exiles.”  These are categories of people who are not active in church.  He shared how we live in a complicated and accelerated culture, which leaves many with images of the church as overprotective, repressive, anti-science, exclusive, shallow and rigid.  He challenged us to actually engage the current generation where they are at… to live our Christian walk as did the Jews who were in exile in Babylon.  He asked us whether we love our traditions more than our children.  Put another way … “Do we love our WAY of being Christian more than we love WHY we are in mission?”

Rev. Dean Nadasdy, former seminary professor and pastor, now Minnesota South District President, talked about ministry in the suburbs.  Being a product of a generation who fled the cities as crime increased, he knows well the mind of the suburbanite.  In short, they are looking to live an “ideal.”  They came to the suburbs looking for a sort of utopia.  They are always searching for something more or better.  They are never satisfied.  This can lead them to push their kids too far, have high stress, financial tension, and ultimately live in isolation.  They are the ultimate consumers!  This is the culture and context in which we minister at Redeemer.

Gretchen Jameson from purePR talked about “Reaching the Lost through Social Media.”  Like it or not, the culture has changed.  Social media is now used by over 1 Billion people around the world!  Her challenge to us is to use social media not just as another way to “advertise” … but to truly engage, motivate and stir the hearts of those we hope to reach.

Rev. David Kim from Link Houston talked about “reaching the Nations in our Own Backyard.” Born in S. Korea, ministering in Ecuador, and now in inner-city Houston, he has a passion for helping us cross cultures to reach the lost.  He presented many eye-opening statistics.  Perhaps the most staggering of which is that church bodies that are growing usually show only about 80% “white” in their churches, but churches that are declining show 90% or greater non-Hispanic Caucasian.  The Lutheran church tops the declining church list at 96% “white.”  Jesus tells us there is no longer Jew nor Greek … and our culture is now reflecting that.  The fastest growing population in our zip code is Asian.

At the Wiki Conference: “Start Something New, Do Something Now”

Rev. Bill Woolsey, founder of FiveTwo, CrossPoint church pastor and host of the conference, shared a video “mash-up” of music from the Summer of 2013, and related it to the “mashed-up” culture in which we live.  “Mash-up” is a term used to describe a mixture or fusion of separate songs, or other elements, into a single unified final product.  American culture is the perfect mash-up with elements from so many ethnicities, and even moreso, differing ideologies and values.  He also shared the importance of our churches being “incarnational” in our communities – literally bringing the gospel of Christ in-person to those who need to hear it.  He challenged us to the goals of baptizing 1 person for every 10 in worship, and also to start one new ministry for lost people in the next 10 months.

Dr. Michael Frost, Australian professor and author of the book The Shaping of Things to Come talked to us about how mission is rooted in a through-going belief that our God reigns! … But we must also recognize that we carry this mission out in a fallen world where the capacity to understand and access his reign is fitful, partial and mysterious.  He presented a powerful image of a dilapidated house with soot covered windows.  Outside of that house is a beautiful sunset, but all that can be seen inside is a faint glow.  Our job as missionaries is to clean the windows.  We don’t make the sun rise and set… but we help people see this work of God! Consequently, we must ask ourselves what will the “age to come” look like?  If it looks like healing, hope, wholeness, joy and laughter … then we must work now to allow that Kingdom reality to be seen.  Our mission is not to make those inside the Church comfortable, but to work together to announce the reign of God, and bring more to Christ!

Bob Goff, attorney, bestselling author of the book Love Does, and founder of Restore International was perhaps the most whimsical person I have ever seen!  He said we in the church are like Jesus “stalkers!” What does a stalker do?  They stay at a distance and find out stuff about people they don’t know.  He’s suggesting that we want to learn more about Jesus, but not really have a relationship with Him.  He challenged us to not just “invite” people to church, but to “welcome” them.  In other words, truly embrace those who find their way to our church – being more like a “porter” who asks the question “how can I help you on your way?” His motto is, “Love God, Love People, Do Stuff.” He thinks we should “leak Jesus” like wet tennis shoes leave a mark after skipping through a puddle! His greatest challenge is to move from what we are able to do … to what we are MADE by God to do!  What has God MADE you to do in life? Do that!

A Light to the Lost

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We’ve been studying the Gospel of John at Redeemer for the last several weeks, each week seeing a different facet of Jesus’ life and ministry.  In John Ch. 9 we see Jesus as the Light of the world.  In fact, John opens his Gospel with the words, “the true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:9).  In the Nicene Creed, we profess Jesus as “Light of Light.” Quite simply, we recognize that Jesus is the very source of all light – even when God said “Let there be light!” in the third verse of Genesis, Jesus was its source. Likewise, Jesus is our source of light.  When we baptize someone at Redeemer we give them a lit candle.  This is to signify that Christ is the light that came into the world, and now that they have received that light in baptism, they are to become light-bearers, and bring that light into a dark world.

At Redeemer by the Sea, our mission is to be a “lighthouse to our community and the world.” Even our building has a design that resembles a lighthouse, which is fitting since our church is on top of a hill not far from the ocean.  Clearly we have the light of Christ in our midst, but how are we doing at shining that light into a world of people that seem to be increasingly walking in the dark?  The news reveals to us the kind of darkness that surrounds us, and recent trends in the Church indicate that more and more of this generation are finding themselves wandering away from the church, into a world which spurns the light of Christ.

In the book You Lost Me (2011) author David Kinnaman laments the fact that young adults in increasing numbers do not consider the churches they were raised in as “safe and hospitable places” and that many of those will leave the church and even the faith.  Clearly there are cultural forces at work, he notes, but it’s also clear that the Church cannot just dismiss this problem as a sign of the times and then hunker down in our holy-huddles (my words, but his sentiment).  In fact, he challenges churches to recognize that we are “not adequately preparing the next generation to follow Christ faithfully in a rapidly changing culture.”

What all this means to me is simple.  It means that the Church, and especially we at Redeemer – with our mission to be a “light-house” – must intentionally find ways to bring the light of Christ to the lost and searching in the world.  We have the Light which brightens our way and directs our steps out of the darkness and into God’s marvelous light! It’s a Light that this generation desperately needs as they search in the dark.  It’s a light that we can’t just keep in our “house” but that we must carry to “our community and to the world.”  Join me in praying that God will make our light shine brightly so that more will see and know Him! And that He will move us to live our calling of being light-bearers.  … Hide it under a bushel? No!

… Illumine us, Lord Jesus.  Amen!

Doing Church as a Team

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As a leadership team at Redeemer, we are reading together the book “Doing Church as a Team” by Wayne Cordiero:

Wayne says in his book:

The church is not an organization.  It is more like an organism with living parts that must move and work together as a whole.  An individual part cannot function on its own.

We can readily agree with this assessment.  We know that together we can accomplish more than we can alone.  But it can be so challenging to work together!  Sometimes it seems easier to just “do it myself” than to go through the trouble to create a team environment.

It is a challenge to create and work with teams – how do you do it?  Wayne says in the book:

Building teams does not begin with a certain kind of technique; it begins with a certain kind of heart – an unselfish, authentic heart, desiring God’s best.  Such a heart constantly asks, How can I include others?  It anticipates the joy of sharing experiences, struggles and victories…

So how do we allow such a team culture and mindset to flourish at our church?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Please share your comments below!

– Pastor Augie.

Daily Bible Reading

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Have you determined to read the Bible Daily – maybe as part of your New Year’s Resolutions … or your 2013 “Plan for Purpose?”  I hope you have!  We all should be reading and studying the Bible daily.  At Redeemer by the Sea, we encourage using the “Life Journal” as a means of getting into God’s Word daily.  If you don’t already have a Life Journal, let me know and I can help get you one.  But how do you use the Life Journal?  Let me show you a VERY SIMPLE, YET POWERFUL devotional method that you can use with your Life Journals.  It will help you:

      1. get more out of your daily devotions.

      2. be more regular in your devotion time. 

      3. learn and remember more Scripture.

      4. start a regular devotional pattern if you don’t already have one.

This practice can be transformational for you… it has been for me!.  It is very easy, and while the Life Journal provides a reading plan that will help you read the Bible in one year, you can use the Life Journal, and this devotional method with any Bible reading plan, and with any notebook or even the computer.

Here’s how it works…Just remember the acronym “SOAP”:

1.“S” SCRIPTURE. Read whatever Scripture is on your plan to read for that day.  It is important to have a PLAN.  This method would work even if you open your Bible and plunk your finger down on a verse, but in order to receive the “whole counsel” of God, you should methodically work through all of Scripture, so you don’t just tend to the parts you like.  As you are reading through your Scripture, begin to underline or highlight verses that stick out, or really speak to you.  Use a Bible that you feel comfortable marking up and making notes in.  Don’t worry about summarizing anything at this point.  Just let your Spirit be open to God speaking to you through His Word.  When you are finished reading your section of Scripture, skim back over it, and note the sections that you’ve underlined.  What stands out to you the most?  Where do you feel God really opened your eyes today?  Whittle that down to a phrase or a verse or two of Scripture.  Then in your Life Journal, write down today’s date, and then under that put an “S” and then write out the verse of Scripture, Then make a note of the Biblical Reference (Isaiah 44:1, for example).

2.“O” OBSERVATION.  Write down an “O” and then write things that you observed during your reading or study of today’s text.  This can be as extensive as you like.  You can write down what’s happening in the preceding and following chapters and verses (immediate context) of the section of Scripture you’re reading, or if you’d like to go deeper, you can lookup some historical information on the internet or in a Bible Dictionary.  If your Bible lists “cross-referenced” Bible verses, you might look those up and see what additional insights they provide and write that down. Whatever you observe that helps “set the stage” for today’s reading… write that down.  I find that this is the sort of thing that may be obvious to you while you are reading, but very often flees your memory when you look back at just a section or verse of Scripture out of its original context.  Record those observations for ‘safe keeping’ in the “O” section of your journal entry.

3.“A” APPLICATION.  Now write an “A” and then write how God is speaking to you personally through this verse.  What is He saying that you need to hear?  What is He saying that challenges you, or perhaps that comforts and encourages you?  This section in your journal, simply helps you apply the verses of Scripture to your life and your current situation. 

4.“P” PRAYER.  Finally, write down a “P” and the prayer(s) that emerge in your heart following your devotional time.  By this point in your time with God, it is likely that you will realize that you need to make a change, to be strengthened, or just to be comforted and given hope.  Talk to God in this section.  Tell Him what’s in your heart, and ask Him to give you what you need.  He longs to do this for you… He is waiting for you to come to Him.  This is the part of your journal where you don’t want to ‘hold back.’  You cannot hide anything from God.  By not coming to Him on your knees in your journal/prayer you are only short-changing yourself of God’s power to heal, strengthen, comfort or grow you.  Write it down.  Be “Real,” honest and sincere with God.

That’s it!  It’s a pretty easy thing to do, and the blessings are many.  In fact, the blessings can be compounded when you SHARE your devotional (SOAP) thoughts with someone else!  Try it the next time you get together in small groups, or with a new-believer you are mentoring, or at a meeting for church, or even with someone with whom you might differ theologically!  It is a great way to open the Scriptures and dig in.  This way, you are ready and ‘prepared,’ since God has already spoken to your heart on the topic.  You can even use it as a means for accountability.  The next time someone tells you that they wish they read the Bible more, you might suggest they try the S.O.A.P. method.  Then when you see them, ask them to share something with you from their journal.  If the pages are empty – then it’s clear that they haven’t yet begun to really work at studying God’s Word devotionally.

Oh, one more thing.  When you are working on your Life Journal, it’s good to have a blank notepad next to you. You can use that to write down any “busy thoughts” that come to your mind while you are reading and studying Scripture.  So many people struggle with this.  When we sit still to study the Bible, we can tend to have a flurry of thoughts flood our mind with what we have to do today or tomorrow.  If you think to yourself “I’ll remember it,” and you don’t write it down, what tends to happen is that your brain keeps dwelling on it, and it clouds your thinking and focusing on God and His Word.  It is far better to set your Bible down for a moment, make a note of what you have to do in your planner or notepad, and then move on with your devotion.  In fact, I’ve found that God uses my devotional time to bring me to some of my best thoughts and ideas.  It is a good feeling if you sense that God is leading you in your daily tasks.  It gives you a greater sense of purpose.  The main thing, though, is not to let these thoughts distract you from reading and praying through Scripture.

Why am I trying so hard to get you to try this devotional method?  Because it has been truly transformational for me!  It has changed the way I approach my devotional time.  By being a more active ‘participant’ in my time with God, I get so much more out of it. For years I tried sitting down and doing devotions with nothing but my Bible in hand.  But there’s something about bringing a pen and paper into the picture…  It means that I seriously expect God to say something to me, or show me something that day!  I pray that you will enjoy many such encounters with God using your Life Journal!

Studying the Bible with you,

Pastor Augie

Leadership Lessons from ASU

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My son is a student at Arizona State University (ASU).   Having been residents of Arizona for 10 years, we have watched ASU go from having a “questionable” reputation to being a well respected, nationally ranked university.  How did this happen through a decade of downturn and uncertainty?  In this video, ASU President Dr. Michael Crow talks about his innovative approach that directed the turn-around of this University – which is now the largest in America.

As I watched, I couldn’t help but note what I saw as several relevant connections to the Church in America today.  See if these sentiments seem applicable to today’s Church leadership to you:

To have institutions that are static means then that at some point that our dynamism will be greatly reduced.

We became self satisfied at our achievement of success (of being highly selective on who we admit)

We needed to be excellent and grow at the same time.

How do we become deeply committed to the community?

We want to be driven by the desire to serve.

Most universities have become implementers of traditions that they can’t even explain why they exist.

We’ve decided to take innovation and adaptation and make that equal to or more important than tradition.  Not eliminating the traditions but just not making them the driver.

Bring these disciplines together because we know that if we can bring these together we can solve problems in ways that hadn’t previously even been able to think of them.

We will not be separate from society. We’re not interested in separation.  We’re interested in service.

You can’t be of service if you are separated. (no more ivory tower).

Can be innovative and adaptive

How can we make our impact greater?

The question and challenge for us church leaders is are we willing to admit that the church as an “institution” is facing many similar “pressure”s as ASU faced – changing economics, changing demographics, changing priorities among the constituents we serve and hope to reach?

Are we willing to make changes to reach people? In ASU’s case, they wanted to reach new students, but they had to change their approach to faculty and admission to do so.  In the church, can we think through how we design our institution so that it can reach new people?  Perhaps we need to change our approach to who we exist for?  What would be the parallel to faculty and admission in the church? How can we embrace “traditions” in the church but not allow them to become the driver in our mission?

Have we become self-satisfied at our current achievements? Do we in the Church tend to think “ivory tower” and separate ourselves from society?   Could we be so bold as to make the firm statement that we “will not be separate from society?”    And are we always asking the question “How can we make our impact greater?”

Food for thought!  May God guide our churches in ways of reaching more and increasing the harvest for Christ’s Kingdom!

Growing and Bearing Fruit

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“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:8). 

“Growing and bearing fruit” is a great phrase to describe what we are to be doing as disciples of the Lord, together in ministry at Redeemer by the Sea.  We have adopted the concept of WORSHIP – GROW – SERVE as a summary of our ministry activities.  That short expression provides a succinct answer to the question, “what is expected of the members at our church?”  Driven by Worship and devotion to our Lord, we expect our members to Grow in love for their Lord and neighbors as demonstrated by heartfelt actions of Service.   This is the fruit of our faith, and shows us to be disciples of the Lord, Jesus says.

As you look through the pages of this report, you will see WORSHIP – GROW – SERVE in action, and the fruit of much of our labors.  Of course much fruit is invisible to our eyes, and can only be seen by the Lord.  Still, we continue in faith to Grow in our Service to God and His Church, bearing much fruit for Him and expanding the Lord’s Harvest, so that more may come to know and worship Jesus!

2012 will be my first full year in ministry at Redeemer, and full it has been!  Over this last year we’ve seen this “fruit” emerge:

  • By God’s grace our mortgage restructure has allowed us to go from a negative cash flow to a positive one.
  • We have seen a steady pattern of increasing worship attendance and offerings
  • Our preschool and kindergarten have had full enrollment.
  • More lay people are involved in the worship service as greeters and readers – actually, more people are involved in active ministry now than ever before.
  • We started new Sunday morning Bible Studies and expanded our Growth Groups.
  • We began our new “Discovery Track” series of membership classes.
  • We have new Sunday School and Church brochures to use for Sunday guests and outreach.
  • We revamped our Children’s ministry to have a large group gathering with puppets and skits, as well as age appropriate small groups.
  • The Lower Level classrooms were decorated with an “Under the Sea” Sunday School theme
  • We celebrated “Big Days” on Easter and Veterans Day as well as in September with the beginning of the School year.
  • We responded generously to the need of the Free Wheelchair Mission, donating more than 140 wheelchairs for distribution.
  • We supported the ministry of Gideons International and Jews for Jesus as well as the outreach of our own Pacific Southwest District.
  • We reached out to the more than 80 families that visited our church for the first time this year with welcome cards and gifts.
  • We grew our building fund to remodel the room 4 Youth Room and “Lounge.”
  • We undertook the project of creating an updated pictorial directory.
  • Our elder board has grown and is doing more member care and even held our first prayer and healing service.
  • And in the challenges of life – where many of us faced significant illness, financial stress and loss, God has used our ministry to be a source of comfort and encouragement.

What a joy to see the Lord growing us so that we bear much fruit to His glory!  Hear what some of our members ­– and non-members – have said about our ministry:

“We praise Jesus for the gift of a wonderful Easter and we are so thankful for the church family in creating such a warm environment to invite friends.”

“NO words to thank you (for) all my boy  learned at this camp (VBS)…He is praising God everyday… and that melts my heart…  We have sooo much peace and Love in our Family …GOD Bless you All.”

“This has been a trying year to say the least but with the love and support of friends and family I have been able to push through.”

“(We) can’t thank you all enough for helping us to feel so welcome and loved at Redeemer By the Sea.  Over the last few years, Redeemer has fulfilled our lives in so many ways and we feel so blessed that we found such a special church family to be a part of.”

Building on the work that has been done this year, we look forward to 2013 with Joy and Hope!  Only God knows the future, but whatever may come, we fully expect God to be present in our midst and to do great things for His Kingdom through Redeemer by the Sea and its members!

In ministry with you,

Pastor Augie

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