Friday, December 30, 2011
(NOTE: This is part 3 in an ongoing, but occasional, blog series on our commitment to Covenant Membership. To read earlier posts in the series, CLICK HERE.)
As I have shared earlier, we are putting the finishing touches on our Membership Covenant. A Membership Covenant is simply a set of relatonal commitments that define our life together in the local church. Up to this point in our 80 year history, GraceSLO has not had a written Membership Covenant, so this is a new concept and tool for our church. So why now? What is the purpose and function of a signed membership covenant?
Here are 8 reasons our leadership is committed to adopting a signed membership covenant as part of our membership process. . . .
A signed covenant is in line with the Biblical practice of covenant making. We just saw the making of a covenant between Laban and Jacob in Genesis 31. We see the people of God make covenants together in many other places in the Bible.
A signed covenant is a way for us to concretely express our commitment to care for one another. A connected and committed Gospel community is the goal. It doesn't just happen. Its hard work and requires a commitment to hang in there when things get tough. A commitment to love people who are in many ways different than you.
A signed covenant is a way for us to clearly and concisely define and affirm our shared values and Biblical convictions. Protecting and guarding the flock of God from false doctrine is one of the responsibilities of Godly church leaders. (Acts 20:28) A signed covenant serves as a "fence" to screen would be Sunday school teachers and Growth Group leaders.
A signed covenant is a way for us to call people to a real commitment to a local church. Most of us ATTEND church. Far fewer of us are COMMITTED to a local church. But the Bible speaks again and again of a deep commitment to local church life. Great things happen when we dig in and commit to things in our lives. Such is true in marriage, parenting, our professional lives, and in the life of the local church.
A signed covenant is a way to build the unity of our church. A signed covenant puts us all "on the same page" , so to speak. While we will all fall short of our commitments to one another, it still gives us a target to shoot for in our Gospel life together.
A signed covenant is a way for us identify, care for, and protect the Lord’s flock.
Elders are charged in 1 Peter 5:1-6 to shepherd the flock. Shepherding the flock means identifying the flock of God among us. A signed covenant is a way for us to identify the Lord's sheep whom we are to shepherd.
A signed covenant serves to challenge the individualism and commitment resistance that is so prevalent in our day. We alll shy away from commitment. We all tend toward individualism and isolationism. Signing a membership covenant reminds us we are "members of one another" (Romans 12:5). It feels good to commit.
A signed covenant is necessary to legally exercise any substantive loving, Gospel-centered church discipline. No one likes to hear the phrase "church discipline" and very few churches make any attempt to do it, but, once again, the Bible clearly calls local churches to care for one another by excercising loving church discipline when necessary. A membership covenant is a way for us to give one another permission to pursue us should we stray or wander away from the Gospel in a significant way.
We are eager to share our Membership Covenant with you and will do so as soon as its ready. Don't worry, we think you're going to love and appreciate it.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Winter Growth Group enrollment opens on Janaury 1. You can enroll in the courtyard on Sundays or online.
Maybe you've been pondering jumping into a Growth Group, but are still hesitant? We recently asked folks in Growth Groups to share their experience and some encouragement for their shepherd/leaders. We were excited about what we heard and have posted a whole page of Growth Group "Buzz". Check it out and then enroll on Sunday.
Here's a sample about a Growth Group that meets in Morro Bay. . . this is what Gospel community is all about. . .
Ron and Laura are some of the most gracious and kind people I have ever met. I am so thankful to be a part of their Growth Group and now call them my friends. If it wasn’t for their Growth Group, I don’t know that I would’ve ever been able to sign up for one. They have opened their home and make it easy to be able to make it in a GG in a busy life these days. It is wonderful eating together and enjoying fellowship with each other. I started in the beginning and it was one of the best things for me the past 2 years. Ron is a kind and gentle leader and always puts himself out there to offer his own struggles and stories. He is real and I think everyone appreciates that. Ron involves everyone in conversation and is totally understanding and relaxed about toddling, crawling, distracting or crying babies! He even invites us to the musical events at Cuesta! Laura McCarly is the most beautiful hearted person I have EVER MET! She is loving, sweet, caring and super, super thoughtful. She remembers birthdays, and is always willing to help or be there for anyone. She ALWAYS looks at things and situations with a positive heart and she gives everyone the benefit of the doubt first… it is hard to believe she is even real! She has the most wonderful things to say about people, and when introducing people she makes everyone feel so comfortable, like we were already all friends anyway. We have seen God’s blessing many times over within our own group. And for myself personally, Growth Group has been one of the only things that has helped me get through a very tough year and a half. Our family had dealt with a lot of heartache, saying goodbye to a foster child after a year and a half, it was like a death in our family and it was the prayers and fellowship of good friends that helped me the most. I have also been dealing with a lot of health problems and even though it makes it hard for me to make it to church in the mornings a lot of weeks, I can find the Lord and his people at Growth Groups... and some members have helped get our daughter to Sunday School, so that has given me peach. I could go on and on and on…and that is not just an expression… Ron and Laura are truly loving Godly people and anyone who has the pleasure of knowing them is BLESSED! I also wanted to say that Grace is the first church this large that I have ever attended and if it wasn’t for Growth Groups, I may have continued to look around… It has been hard to connect at a church that size and everyone seems to already know each other or assumes you know everyone too… It is nice to have a group of people from a home group. So great move with Growth Groups… I think it was perfect timing! God’s timing.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Of the Father’s love begotten
Ere the world’s began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega--
He the source, the ending He
Of the things that are, that have been,
And the future years shall see
Evermore and evermore
O that birth forever blessed,
When a virgin, blest with grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bore the Savior of our race;
And the babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face
Evermore and evermore.
This is He who seers in old time,
Chanted with one accord,
Whom the voices of the prophets
Promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long-expected;
Let creation praise its Lord
Evermore and evermore.
Let the heights of heaven adore Him,
Angel hosts, his praises sing:
Powers, dominions, bow before Him
And extol our God and King;
Let no tongue on earth be silent;
Every voice in concert ring
Evermore and evermore
Christ, to you, with God the Father
And the Spirit, there shall be
Hymn and chant and high thanksgiving
And the shout of jubilee
Honor, glory and dominion
And eternal victory
Evermore and evermore!
--Marcus Aurelius Prudentrius, from the 5th Century, translated by Jason Mason Neale (1854) and Henry W. Baker (1859)
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Beloved Family of GraceSLO,
You've got to know . . . our staff agonized over the timing and number of Christmas services this weekend. Some of us voted for two services on Saturday evening, and no services on Sunday. Others couldn't swallow the thought of the church not having services on Sunday, Christmas Day. After much discussion and deliberation, we opted for one 5:00 PM service on Saturday, Christmas Eve and one 10:45 AM service on Christmas Day. Both services will include lots of Christmas music, a devotional with the kids, a few, brief thoughts on the incarnation, and candle lighting.
I have to admit, I'm a bit nervous. My daughter sat down next to me last Sunday morning and said, "Dad, everybody I've talked to is coming to the Christmas Eve service." I could tell she was nervous, too.
So here's the REQUEST and the REALITY. . .
If you are able, would you consider coming to the 10:45 AM service on Christmas Day? It's going to be warm and calm and intimate. Invite your friends! Christmas Eve is going to be full and crazy and crowded . . . and it's going to be cold outside, too!
We are going to jam as many as we legally and safely can into the Worship Center for the 5:00 PM Christmas Eve service. We are committed to adhering to the firecode which says we cannot put chairs or bodies on the floor down the aisles. We will have extra seating in areas of the room, but cannot seat people in the aisles. When it becomes necessary, we will regretfully turn folks away . I've asked Pastor Ken to work with ushers to help direct traffic. So, arrive early and squeeze in! Still, invite friends to come consider and worship "The Wonder of the Incarnation."
Despite my nervousness now, I know it's going to be a superb weekend together. Work hard now, so you can worship, rest and rejoice then!
Merry Christmas. I'm looking forward to worshipping with you.
Because of and for the Gospel. . . . Tim
P.S. Thanks for helping us catch up on our budget shortfall as we press ahead in ministry at GraceSLO and ministry beyond GraceSLO, locally and globally. As of last Sunday, we are now only $38K short of our budget year to date. Don't forget that all year-end gifts must be dated and postmarked by 12.31.11 . . . and you can give online by CLICKING HERE
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Did you miss Sunday's worship services? Then you missed these precious ones. . .
(thanks, Josef K., for the footage)
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Avowed New Athiest and author of "God is Not Great", Christopher Hitchens, succumbed to cancer last Thursday at the age of 62. No one knows the soul of another, but there is no evidence of a Gospel confession.
Peter Hitchens, Christopher's brother, was also an athiest until his recent conversion to Christianity. He has writen a book entitled "The Rage Against God" explaining his conversion to faith.
He was interviewed in the June 2011 edition of Tabletalk Magazine and made these insightful comments about death. . .
Death is the great reminder that this life is limited, and that it may not be the end. For most of our lives, we behave as if this is not so. It is only when death touches those close to us that we are forced into this understanding, especially in a modern world where death is kept at a distance, ignored, undiscussed, and shuffled off into corners.
I found Hitchens an intriguing, provacative figure. I especially enjoyed his debate with Douglas Wilson in the documentary Collision. Here's a sample . . .
I used to own a copy of the Collision DVD, but haven't been able to find it. We really need to purchase it for the church library.
Let us, this Christmas, not behave like life is unlimited. . . as we interact with friends, family and co-workers who do not know the hope of Christ.
Monday, December 19, 2011
One of the most common things we've heard from folks in response to our commitment to move toward Covenant Membership is . . . .
Why fix what isn't broke?
It's a reasonable and legitimate question. It's true that GraceSLO is a vibrant and, for the most part, healthy fellowship of believers. We are far from perfect and certainly haven't arrived, but our leadership is stable, united and operating from a common ministry philosophy. The congregation is active, engaged and serving. The church is alive, stable and slowly growing. We are generationally diverse and becoming more socio-economically diverse. The Bible is central and the Gospel is preached throughout the church. GraceSLO is not broke.
At the same time, there is always room for improvement and growth. Paul writes to a relatively healthy church in Thessalonica and he encourages them to "excel still more" . . .
Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. . . . 9 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10 for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more . . . --1 Thessalonians 4;1, 9-10
We believe Covenant Membership is a means for us to "excel still more" in our love of the the brethren. Here are 7 specific reasons our leadership believes Covenant Membership is both Biblical and desireable for our life together.
GROWTH: we believe membership is a means to help one another grow at GraceSLO, since God has designed us to spiritually grow and thrive in intimate, committed, Gospel community together.
CARE: we believe membership is a means to better obey and live out the “one another commands” together at GraceSLO.
CONNECTEDNESS: we believe membership is a means of embracing and living out our connectedness in the Gospel at GraceSLO, while at the same time confronting the rampant consumerism and individualism that characterizes our day.
COMMITMENT: we believe membership is a means to build deeper commitment to the Gospel and one another at GraceSLO in a day when so many fear and avoid commitment to a local church.
SHEPHERDING: we believe membership is a means to more intentional shepherding by our pastors and elders because membership will more clearly define “the flock” God has entrusted to our care.
ACCOUNTABILITY: we believe membership is a means to greater Biblical accountability here at GraceSLO, as we give one another permission to speak into each other’s lives and pursue each other when we stray from the way of the Gospel.
PROTECTION: we believe membership is a means of practically and spiritually protecting GraceSLO and the Gospel from false doctrine, false teachers and lawsuits.
As usual, we're open to your thoughts and invite your input.
Friday, December 16, 2011
Starry Night by Chris August has been rolling around in my head for months now. I find myself singing it often. . .
It reminds me that Christ is Sovereign Lord of All who cares for little me!
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Brian Trapp, one of our GraceSLO family, was involved in helping to put this vid together highlighting the work of Achievement House. Don't know what Achievement House is or what they do? Take a look and find out.
Great work, Achievement House! Great work, Brian, and the others at Barnett, Cox & Associates.
He shines in all that's fair!
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Ok sports fans, what are you making of Denver Bronco's Quarterback, Tim Tebow, and his late game heroics? Is God's hand upon him in some special, miraculous way in all these 4th quarter wins?
I agree with this guy. And I especially like the last couple of paragraphs.
Monday, December 12, 2011
We've been talking about Covenant Membership for a LONG, LONG time here at GraceSLO. . . since before I was called as the 5th Lead Pastor of GraceSLO over 9 years ago. If the Lord wills, we will finally implement/launch Covenant Membership in 2012.
There has been a ton of work, but steady progress happening behind the scenes all through 2010 and 2011. I thought I'd share an update of what's been going on, where we are, and what's next.
This big project has involved 4 primary parts or sub-projects:
Revision of our Declaration of Faith: Since Covenant Membership involves a commitment to our statement of faith, we saw this as an opportunity to revise our statement to more fully reflect our commitment to a robust view of our great God, His glorious Gospel, and the doctrines that surround the Gospel.
This work is now complete. I have preached through the Declaration of Faith in the Spring and Summer of this year. You Declaration of Faith is on our website HERE. An FAQ related to the Declaration of Faith is HERE. The sermon series audio can be found HERE.
Rewrite of our Constitution/By-Laws: Our long standing Constitution/By-Laws were built upon an assumption of no church membership at GraceSLO. After multiple amendments, these vital documents really were in need of an overhaul. Again, our move toward Covenant Membership seemed like a fitting time to address this need and get it right.
After much Elder discussion and review, our new Constitution/By-Laws are currently being reviewed by legal counsel before being submitted for final Elder approval. This document will then be submitted to the Congregation for review and approval at a special Congregation Meeting in early 2012 (Stay tuned for the exact date!) Our current Constitution requires that the by-laws and constitution changes be approved by the congregation (I think it's a 2/3rds majority of those who attend the meeting, but I'm not sure. Need to check on that.)
Creation of a Membership Covenant. A Membership Covenant is simply a set of stated commitments shared by and signed by the members of a church. Our membership covenant begins like this. . .
Our Commitments to One Another in the Sight of God
The basis for our commitment to and caring for one another is the Gospel. The Gospel is the great news of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Jesus Christ alone. Trusting the Gospel involves actively trusting, following, and obeying Jesus in every area of life. This is what it means to be disciples of Jesus Christ. As disciples, following Jesus is not something we do alone, but together with others in a caring and committed community of a local church.
As a disciple of Jesus Christ and member of GraceSLO, I will joyfully endeavor to live together with others in our church, through the following commitments:
What then follows is a series of 8-10 commitments. Signing the the GraceSLO Membership Covenant will be one of the requirements for membership.
Our Membership Covenant is almost complete. The Elders are doing some fine-tuning and word smithing and hope to submit it in its entirety to the congregation as soon as possible. The Membership Covenant will be another one of the big topics at our special Congregation Meeting in early 2012.
Creation of a Membership Class Curriculum: We are about 50% finished with the curriculum for what we anticipate will be a 4 session class. We hope to launch our first Covenant Membership Class in Spring or Summer 2012. We are still discussing whether or not we will require everyone in the congregation to go through the 4 session class or if we will provide an initial "fast track" window to speed up the process.
That's where we're at and what's ahead. Lots more thoughts to share and frequently asked questions to address. I hope to do that here at Life Together as we get closer to launch.
If you're nervous, suspicious, upset or unsure about Covenant Membership and what it's going to mean at GraceSLO, please be assured our elders and pastors only desire God's best for GraceSLO. As the elders have said throughout the years, "We want to go from a Biblical position to a MORE Biblical position." We believe Covenant Membership is a move in a more Biblical direction. Please understand there is nothing in this for us. Our hearts are not to "command and control" but to "commit and care." Hang in there! Do not fear. Trust the Lord and the plurality of Godly men He has raised up and appointed to lead GraceSLO. We are trusting the Lord with you.
Stay tuned for more soon . . .
Thursday, December 8, 2011
The Lord has raised up a team of 11 others who will join me in North India February 1-10 to "SEE & SERVE". It's a great team and I can't wait to see what God does IN and THROUGH us. Here's our team. . .
Sean & Lindsey Cheney
Kris & Brittany Couch
Ken & Judi Peet
Dan & Leslie Woods
We gathered together for the first time last Sunday after church and I forgot to snap a pic. (I'm just kicking myself!) Support raising is under way. If you'd like to support our team as a whole, you can send a check directly to Empart and your contribution will be spread across the entire team. Please put "GraceSLO India 2012" in the memo of your check. Here's the Empart address. . .
466 Foothill Blvd, #352
La Canada, CA 91011
Some go. Some give. All have a responsibility to pray. Thanks for doing what you can as we pursue the Great Commission together.
Here's a great post that highlights the power of our global partnership with Empart.
Here's the latest vid from Empart to encourage and challenge your heart. . . .
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
That's the number of Christmas presents that the church family at GraceSLO joyfully bought for needy children in our community. Our people bought Christmas presents for 30 children in the homeless shelter and for 110 babies born to teen moms in San Luis Obispo and the North County. It is more blessed to give than receive.
$900 to help 10 needy families
That's the amount of money GraceSLO gave in November to meet needs in the community. Here's how this works: We've been partnering with the Salvation Army here in SLO to help assess and meet the needs of needly families in our community. When people show up at our door, we send them to the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army screens them by listening to their story and evaluating their needs. If the story seems truthful and the need is legitimate, the Salvation Army gives to meet the need with funds we've given to them for such purposes. We enable the Salvation Army to give up to $1000/ month in the name of Jesus and on behalf of GraceSLO to needy families who come our way. So far this has been a terrific partnership. The Salvation Army is much more equipped to screen needs than any of our staff and yet we have the ability to help. When you give to the Benevolent Fund on Communion Sundays, this is where some of this money goes . . .to meet real needs in the community.
90 to 130 families served weekly
That's the number of famiies being served EACH WEEK throughout the Fall through our God's Storehouse Ministry. Again these are real needs being met in concrete ways. The food is being donated by grocery stores and other outlets in and around SLO. The labor is being supplied by you, the Family of GraceSLO. Your giving to the Benevolent Fund on Communion Sundays is how we got things started and how we pay for unexpected or extra expenses associated with God's Storehouse. It's easy to jump in and volunter by CLICKING HERE.
50 families fed Thanksgiving Dinners
God's Storehouse provided food for Thanksgiving celebrations for over 50 needy families in our community this year. God provided in amazing ways. When we started this food drive we didn't know how much food we would get, so we simply prayed that we would have enough to give every family at least a couple of Thanksgiving items. Through the GraceSLO church famly God exceeded expectations and every family got a bag overflowing with everything they needed for a wonderful meal including stuffing or mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, canned vegetables, sparkling cider and dessert. We even had a little left over! The Parable Group as well as our AWANA families also donated food items for our Thanksgathering Bags.
This is living the Gospel. We have been blessed to be a blessing! This is God at work in the hearts of His poeple to move their hands and feet and wallets. This encourages my heart greatly. I hope it encourages yours, too.
Friday, December 2, 2011
Here's why I love this song by Steven Curtis Chapman:
It avoids the common false secular/sacred split.
It affirms that variety of noble, God-given callings in life.
It affirms the power and place even the most mundane tasks in life, the things most of us spend the majority of our lives doing.
It reminds us that all of life is an opportunity to worship.
It presents important, transformative, deep, Biblical truths in a fun, catchy, memorable way.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
We haven't said anything about it, but I'm sure you've noticed . . .we've been replacing our Worship Center doors and frames over the last few weeks. I hate to see us spend this money right now in the middle of a budget shortfall, but the project could be put off no longer. We realized it needed to be done 5 years ago when we repainted, but didn't want to spend the money then. The issue is dryrot and termite damage. Its to be expected on a building that's coming up on 70 years old, but its still a bummer.
The money for this project is actually surplus from last year's budget earmarked for this project, so its not affecting this year's budget, but it is affecting our valuable cash reserves. Trusting the faithful Lord will continue to provide for His Gospel work here on the corner of Pismo and Osos.
(SiDENOTE: Stepping back from this project, I do believe in the power of place. The church is a people, not a place, but the people of God meet in a place. Place matters. The way we build it. The way we maintain it. The way we steward it. God loves matter. . . after all He made it. Any place God's people gather to worship should reflect the excellence and beauty of the God we worship. We see this reflected in the meticulous detail and prescribed excellence of the Old Testament tabernacle and temples. We need a Biblically informed "theology of place." Our friend Jim Estes, used to say "No junk for Jesus." I couldn't agree more. The issue is NOT "Is this a worthwhile and valuable use of the Lord's money?". . . . but rather the unfortunate timing of the expenditure.)