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Welcome! The primary purpose of this blog is to explore and encourage around what it means to be winsome and sent into the world for God's glory. If you are new here, the definition of "lighthouse-searchlight" or our missional journey is a good place to start. Come peruse the blog and add me to your RSS feed!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

blooper reel, pt. 2

I'm not sure if I just need a laugh myself, because ministry and dissertatin' have been such a constant, hard press, or if I'm just feeling a little punchy, but this is all I have this week... pastoral bloopers, take two.

On my first Ash Wednesday at my present church, I struggled through the logistics. I had been an Associate Minister previously, which meant: 1) I didn't know where you get the ashes; 2) I didn't know how to prepare the ashes; 3) I really knew nothing about ashes.

The church secretary had secured a bag of ashes for me. One detail down. But at 6:30pm, 30 min. before the service was to start, I got them out to practice on my hand. Dry as dust they were (maybe why ashes and dust are linked together?) I added a bit of water... and it washed away. Something was not right. Maybe I need oil instead of water. So, I run to the church kitchen. Oil, oil, where is oil. Ah, I see some Pam cooking spray. I sprayed it on my hand, then sprinkled some ashes on there. Nope, that's a horrible mess - took 5 min. to wash the sludge off my hand. 6:50, and I try olive oil. It makes one giant slimy ash-ball. Nope, that's not it.

So, at 6:55, I called my colleague from the previous church. I told the person who answered the phone my crisis and she pulled him out of their service (started at 6:30) to come help me! He said I needed water after all. So, off I go to the restroom to find the right amount to make ash-paste.

Whew, I made it, running into the sanctuary at 7pm for the somber, serious service. It goes fine... for a while. We had about 50 people there. Near the end I had them file up to me to receive the ashes, and I say something like what I remember hearing in my previous church (notice, I hadn't really thought this through).

You have come from ashes, and to ashes you will return.

Well, that sounded good enough for my first try. I had preached on repentance and ashes and it made sense in that context.

Now you try saying that sentence over and over 50x in a row.

Around person #38 one of our members stepped up before me and I said my line, gave him the cross, and he moved on. I remember that he kind of blinked and looked at me funny, so I hit the "rewind" button in my brain. Yep, there it was, clear as crystal: 

You have come from asses, 
     and to asses you will return.

What is it with me and ashes? The postscript to this story is that I've found a new Ash Wednesday tag line: 

You have come from dust, and to dust you shall return.

I am teachable, after all.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


I've been getting to know a fellow pastor, Mark Lee. Mark has been called to pastor a Korean church plant in my presbytery. We've had several occasions to visit and talk about our respective churches. I knew some of the challenges that Korean congregations face, but when I heard Mark describe them I heard with new ears.

In many Korean churches, there is a distinct generation gap between "first generation" immigrants and their children and grandchildren, who are far more westernized. Often the elder generation speaks exclusively Korean, though they understand some English. The younger generations grow up in mainstream schools and learn English as a first language. I have been so impressed with Mark's vision (and his elders' vision) to bridge between the older and younger generations and engage the diverse American culture around them rather than remain in a Korean-American bubble.

None of this is too surprising or new to anyone familiar with immigrant churches, but here's the thing that hit me in a new way. As Mark described the challenges and his own place as an approx. 40 year old English-speaking pastor, raised in Philadelphia, and called to a bi-lingual setting, I thought of my own self-description as being a (not quite) 40 yr. old pastor with one foot in my parents' "modern" culture and one foot in the emerging, post-modern (pomo) culture. There are only a few of us who are "bi-lingual" when it comes to this modern/post-modern divide. Many, many churches are finding it easier to retreat to the traditional/modern bubble of 1950s church and not dare to speak into the alien culture of their children and grandchildren. And so you have mainline churches with an average age of something like 58. Meanwhile, emergent churches are doing their own thing, often with nary a person over the age of 30 (much less 50).

I share Mark's vision for his Korean congregation to figure out how to be one family that engages the neighbors all around them. I have a vision for my congregation to continue to work at being one family that also engages the neighbors all around us. It's a tough thing to hold together when half your church speaks one langage and half speaks another, but we are bound together by the Holy Spirit and rooted in the Word of God, which transcends culture, language, and generations.

Another point of connection with Mark: I've been squeezing the lighthouse/searchlight metaphor for a year and a half now (I'm sure my congregation is weary of it!). I've been praying for us to kindle and bear the light of Christ more and more brightly for our neighbors in South Charlotte. When Mark told me the name of his congregation, I just had to laugh at God's sense of timing and humor (I guess humor IS 90% timing)... Mark is pastor of Church of the True Light - yes, we have much in common!

Friday, February 01, 2008

go and tell

I just read an excellent post by Tullian Tchividjian entitled "Go and Tell." In it, Tullian puts his finger on a biblical dynamic that we've been talking about for some time now at Good Shepherd (and which is the point of this blog). In the Old Testament, God's people (Israel) were blessed to be a blessing. God was to be their God, but also promised to reveal Himself to the world through them. But, they were also charged with being a holy (and thus, separate) people. In order for the world to come to God and come to know God, they had to "Come and See" through Israel.

This is how most of us (in America) have "done church" for a long time now. We've built great ministries and programs and talked about inviting people to come and see and hopefully meet Jesus Christ in our churches. Increasingly, church has been geared toward this model, even with the extra sensitivies given to the "seeker model" and understanding exactly who we would hope to attract.

In it's best form, this is what I mean by being a LIGHTHOUSE CHURCH.

But, in the New Testament, the model changed radically! Jesus said, "Come and see," to gather disciples and followers to himself, but his model for ministry and the charge he and the Holy Spirit gave the New Testament Church was to "Go and Tell!" No longer was the world supposed to come to and through God's people. Now, God's people were supposed to get up and get out to the world. Holiness still meant "distinct and set apart" but now the saints were to be in the world and not of the world.

We are still learning how to do this, but this is what it means to be a SEARCHLIGHT CHURCH. Jesus' mission and God's heart is to seek and save the lost, and that means carrying the light of Christ into the darkness. Jesus not only said, "I am the light of the world"; he also said, "You are the light of the world." Let's continue inviting folks to church and Christ, but let's sink our hearts and hands into getting up and getting out... let's Go and Tell.

Go explore Tullian's blog... he writes some really insightful things and I am often blessed by his posts.

For you Good Shepherd folks, Tullian is Melvin's great nephew, and is a Presbyterian minister in Florida.

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