Category Archives: Encouragement

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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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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Cleaning House

Company’s coming to stay with us a couple days. These are missionary friends we met in the Philippines and have not seen in several years. They’ve never been in our home, so we’re looking forward to the opportunity to reconnect.

When company comes, especially out of town overnight guests, we get busy. The house gets extra cleaning, furniture might get moved around a little, and the yard gets some special attention. I don’t think we’re being disingenuous – there’s just something in all of us that wants to put our good foot forward, make a good impression, and appear calm and chaos-free.

Let’s be honest – besides the neat-nicks among us, our homes are not always perfectly tidy. The dirty laundry doesn’t always hit the hamper, undealt-with mail languishes on the table, and the detritus of life finds countertops and coffee tables. We fear that someone may drop by and see what we are really like in the midst of a busy week. And yet, if we happen upon a friend’s “au naturel” house we’re not offended. Is this double standard hypocritical?

It depends on attitude. One person scrubs down the house for fear of how others will judge them if it is less than spotless, while another puts in the extra effort as an act of love for the guest. Same exterior result, different internal motivation. But the self-centered way will drive you crazy, while the other-focused effort brings joy. To realize, “I’m creating a homey welcome for my guests” makes mopping and dusting strangely satisfying.

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This weekend at Bethany Church you’re going to notice a fresh look to our parking areas – fresh sealant and parking lines on the asphalt. You’ll notice the usual excellent work of the Sod Squad keeping grass green and sidewalks edged. In the evening you’ll notice attractive energy-saving LED street lamps, and soon you’ll be logging on to a new website. The Stewardship team is working on a plan to improve our restrooms and apply an overdue coat of paint to the building exterior in the near future, and a design team is exploring ways to freshen the look of our stage area.

Why you ask? Because taking care of our facilities is responsible stewardship. The building and grounds belong to the Lord, and he has entrusted them to us. We also want to create an attractive and welcoming environment for friends and neighbors. This is not driven out of fear or pride for what others will think of us – it’s an act of love to the unsaved and unchurched friends we are seeking to introduce to Jesus. Creativity also reflects the nature of our Heavenly Father, the First Artist and Almighty Creator. We want our facilities to say, “Welcome, relax, be at home and at ease, in a place where you will hear the Good News of God’s great love for you.”

Hebrews 13:2a reminds us, “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers.” That’s why I’m excited to see some fresh changes. If it means I need to contribute some extra effort or extra funds, I’m willing, because I love our friends and neighbors enough to give them a fresh and clean welcome. I’m not trying to impress anyone, I just want to show our love by making the wonderful Bethany facilities an even better place to hear the Good News and be introduced to Jesus our Lord.

 

Brian Wiebe- Lead Pastor

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