What Do You See?

One of our Leadership Council members made a great observation in a meeting the other day as we talked about Bethany Church’s upcoming annual business meeting. We were weighing the difference between reporting what has happened in the past year versus reporting on what we anticipate for the coming year. He said,

Well, when I drive, I do better looking out the windshield with just an occasional glance in the rear-view mirror, rather than the other way around.”

I think we’d all agree!

Looking forward. We call it vision. It’s what we see, and if we’re going to get anywhere we do better focusing on the road ahead rather than the road behind. But what does this have to do with church? And how can we “see” something that isn’t physically visible?

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A vision for our church means we agree upon a picture of what we believe the church can and should look like in the future. But most leaders agree that vision isn’t birthed in committee, it’s a gift of God given to a leader, and shared as a people. At Bethany, we’re stating our vision as follows:

OUR VISION: An international and intergenerational, life-giving body of Christ-followers, worshiping in unity, growing in grace, and loving our neighborhoods in ways that clearly proclaim the good news. Go ahead and read that statement again, and then close your eyes, imagining what that would look like.

Could you see it? Could you see older and younger together, joyfully singing praises? Did you hear the blend of Chinese, English and Spanish, spoken together, out in the neighborhood serving the community in practical ways? Did you see children acting in dramas, and young adults giving testimonies? Did you see what was in the parking lot? Did you see men and women relating to each other in Christian love?

We could spend a lot of time looking back at where we’ve been, some of which has been absolutely amazing! We could spend our time gazing at where we are right now, which is crucial to make sure we don’t miss what God is doing right under our noses.

But if we’re to get any momentum into the future God has for us we need to look straight into God’s future for us. What do you think…can you see it? Are you along for the ride?

Brian Wiebe-Lead Pastor

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MOMENTUM FOR THE MISSION – GOD’S MISSION

Santa Clara, California, boasts California’s Great America theme park and the brand new Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49’ers football team. On the last weekend of July, it also hosted the US Mennonite Brethren convention, Momentum 2014.  1-65-28-C2014 department page slide

At the convention, I heard many great stories about the good work that our God is doing through our churches, mission agencies, and schools. We also voted on an historic change to our confession of faith as a revised Article 13 on Love, Peacemaking and Reconciliation was presented. (See the Christian Leader online for details).

It would seem from the school initiatives, missions work and church planting that our larger MB family has lots of momentum. Yet we were reminded that there is plenty to do. Our speaker, Ed Stetzer, reminded us that our momentum is fine as long we are on God’s mission and not just doing our own thing. God has provided us a mission and He calls us to join Him in what He is doing. He compared being on mission to traveling together on a superhighway, picking up people as we go and inviting them to join us. Unfortunately, some congregations slow down or stop and form little cul-de-sacs just off the highway, never again getting back on the road anddoing God’s mission. This picture frames a most memorable quote from Ed Stetzer:

        “Don’t let your church become a cul-de-sac on the Great Commission Superhighway.”

Ed’s warning was clear to me. God has sent us out on His mission and we cannot slow down or rest as long as there are people who have not yet connected with God. The good news is that this is an imperative we can work at without fear of failure. It is God’s mission we are working at and God’s mission will not fail. It is God who sends us with his message to all people empowered by the Holy Spirit (another Stetzerism). We have a mission to share the same good news that has changed and shaped our lives and there are people who do want to know this news and our God.

Since Bethany is a unique expression of God’s church, we will speak of fulfilling the mission in a unique way. Our mission is no different than any of the churches in our neighborhood or larger MB family. We may find ways of fulfilling the mission that are unique to who we are. Where we are in danger of becoming a cul-de-sac is when we sloganize the purpose and forget to move out and do it.

Brothers and sisters, let us be listening to the Spirit of God and our leaders as they help move us along the Great Commission Superhighway. Let’s pray with confidence that none of Christ’s people or His churches want anything to do with cul-de-sac life where no one turns in or stops by. We are on a mission – God’s mission. It’s good to be on the highway and picking up people who are seeking God along the way.

Mike Spinelli-Guest Writer

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FINDING YOUR WAY

My dog hates my crutches. Not that he knows what they are, but something about me walking around with these strange shiny sticks has him freaked out.

I really noticed it today when I tried to let him into the house. He was on the patio, looking through the glass door with that wistful dog-look of longing. Satchel is a house dog and a social animal, so time along outside is a pure drag for him. Yet when I, feeling pity for the dog, hobbled to the door to let him in, he refused to enter. Tail wagging furiously, he simply could not bring himself to walk past my crutches.

Life’s better for Satchel inside the house, so I made it my mission to find a way to let him in. I scooted around behind the door and fairly easily coaxed him over the threshold at that point. I helped him find his way in.

In my last blog I wrote that life is more enjoyable and makes more sense when there is a purpose, like a destination or reason for a Sunday afternoon drive. At Bethany Church, our purpose is “to make Christ Jesus known in our communities and beyond.” How we do that becomes our mission.

In a way, we are like my crippled self inviting the reluctant dog into the house: I have my own limitations right now, my own flaws and scars, and I could not pick him up or force him in. I had to adjust my way of doing things so he could find his own way in.  front-doors

Isn’t that a little how it is when we relate to the spiritually lost? We want them to know the better life of following Christ, but there are obstacles that hold them back. They might not know their own need, or they might have had a bad experience with the church, or they may be angry at God for a hardship they’ve suffered. Our role is to help them find their way into a relationship with God. We can’t make it happen, and we can’t be upset with them for keeping their distance. They don’t know yet what it would mean to yield to Christ Jesus.

So that’s our mission. We’re here to help others to Jesus. At Bethany Church, we’re stating our mission this way: “Helping neighbors, friends and family to find their way into the grace and truth of Jesus Christ and follow him together.”

Keep in mind that it is God’s will to save. 1 Timothy 2:4-5 reminds us that God “wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity – the man Jesus Christ.

Neither you nor I can save anyone. I’m not sure we can even “lead them to Christ”, at least not in any forceful way. But we can invite. We can explain. We can listen. We can share, we can testify, we can model. We can adjust our way of doing things so we are less in the way of God’s grace. We do all we can to help our neighbors, friends and family to find their way into a relationship with God by faith in Jesus. And when they come, we’ll follow Jesus together.

Back here at home, Satchel is much happier in the house, but he’ll be much happier when these terrifying crutches are gone. I’ll be happier too!

Brian Wiebe-Lead Pastor 

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SUNDAY DRIVE

Remember the phrase, “Sunday driver”? I think it comes from the days when the automobile was still a novelty, and people would take their car out for a Sunday drive. In no hurry, Sunday drivers might mosey along oblivious to posted speed limits or the line of frustrated drivers behind them. I think I came along too late to know that era when simply having a vehicle was sufficient to pass for family entertainment.  Sunday Drive - Scenic Hwy 1

Today, with gas prices what they are and our constantly revolving schedules, who has the inclination for a Sunday drive? It may just be me, but if I’m going to drive I want a destination. If I’m in the vehicle I want to get somewhere.

I suppose I could be talked into a Sunday drive if it were just Becky and I – but I’d only do so because it is “romantic” – and our purpose would be to find a romantic spot for a soda or picnic.

It is about purpose. I want the things I do to have meaning, to be leading to something, and something good. Don’t you?

The same applies to the life of the church. Do you ever get the sense that attending church can be more like a Sunday drive than moving to a destination? I have. It might actually be enjoyable for a while, but it loses the novelty pretty quickly for me. And if you’re not sitting in the front seat, it is truly a bore.

This is one reason churches see young people, young adults and young families drift away to other pursuits – they get tired of riding around in the back seat going nowhere. We can entertain them for a time, but they can’t even whine, “Are we there yet?” because we have no “there” to get to. There’s no clear destination, no purpose for the trip. It’s just, “Put on your seatbelt and sing along.” And then one day they figure out they can unclick the belt and open the door.

This is why we are shaping up a purpose for Bethany Church. It’s not enough to just get together for a Sunday drive – we need a purpose, a destination. As followers of Jesus, we’ve been given a mandate to “Go and Make Disciples of All Nations”, baptizing and teaching them to follow Christ (Mt. 28:18-20). The Apostle Paul put it another way when he said, “As God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory” (2 Cor.4:15). Our purpose is to make disciples, and to do that, we need to make Christ Jesus known and help people respond to God’s invitation to know him.

For Bethany, we say it like this: “Our purpose is to make Christ Jesus known in our communities and beyond.” That word “known” is deep – for us it means everything from an introduction to a life-transforming commitment to follow Christ, baptized and empowered by the Holy Spirit to take the Christ-life seriously.

I’m losing my interest in aimless Sunday drives, aren’t you? If we’re not going somewhere, why bother?

In upcoming blogs I’ll talk about Mission and Vision as well. For now I encourage you to think about our destination, our purpose. Where are we driving? Why? And how will we get there?

Brian Wiebe-Lead Pastor

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Finding Balance

Most of us are acquainted with someone who recently graduated whether it was from high school, college, or graduate school. In fact, two of my nephews just graduated from high school in Kentucky. Although I wasn’t able to attend the festivities, I’m sure there was a party to celebrate each one’s rite of passage into adulthood.  Not only are students graduating from high school and college, but it’s also wedding season. Weddings…now that’s a whole different level of planning and anxiety. Cake, punch, wedding and reception location, photographer, videographer, food, bridesmaids, groomsmen, gifts for the wedding party, not to mention the rehearsal dinner and a whole host of other extremely important things that I have surely left out.

You might be wondering where this is going. To be honest, I’m not sure I can articulate exactly why I am perplexed by all the forethought and planning goes into these types of life events. I think it has to do with the uncertainty of the transition from one life stage to the next. I do know that I am once again standing on the brink of “What next?” At age 43, all of the planning and life direction that I thought was mapped out just a few years ago is again changing. And just as that high school or collage graduate, or that newly married young man, I’m trying to make sense of what the future will bring. I must admit that I’m guilty of always looking 5 or 10 years down the road and not only wondering, but also worrying, about what those years hold for my family and me. I’m guilty of forgetting to live and find joy in the small moments of each day.  philippians-4-11

I take comfort and find hope in Paul’s words from Philippians 4:11, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” My challenge is finding the balance between “do not worry about tomorrow” in Matthew 6:34 and the constant temptation to look ahead.

 

Roy Moore – Interim Youth Director

 

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