Pin Board Revelations: God is Saying Something

This post is part of a series that comes from an exercise we did as a church to name our reality. You can read more about that exercise here.

There’s a theme bubbling up in our community over the last couple days.

It was a thread weaving it’s way through comments on the blog. It was clear in a wonderful article Lori Sorrel shared. It jumped out of a sermon Matt Honeycutt and Matt Donovan shared with me.  It rose to the surface in at least three conversations I’ve had in the last couple days. It’s been so pervasive that I believe God is saying something to us.

What is that theme?

Life is found in facing outward with abundant love.

Let me give a little more texture to that. Small perspective changes can make a big impact. We naturally focus on ourselves and our needs. Whether that is walking into a worship gathering, stopping by a local coffee shop to grab our morning cup, or deciding what we will do with our Friday night. We function as the primary actors in our own story, with all others as the supporting cast. What happens when we look up and start to pay attention to the ways we can become actors in the story God is working in the lives of others?

The short of it is this. If we, each of us, decided to, “in humility, value others above ourselves,” it would make a dramatic difference. (Philippians 2:3) Want ideas on what that looks like in daily life. Click any of the links I shared at the beginning.

I share all of this to set up the pin board revelation for today.

People shared that we struggle to welcome new people into our community.

  • “It’s hard for me to want to invite people here.”
  • “I think my non-Christian friend may feel uncomfortable here.”
  • “We’re not welcoming to new people.”

This does not need to be the case (nor should it be). I know you all. You are loving, gracious, forgiving, and genuinely desire that people feel included and valued. I don’t believe we have a problem of character, we have a problem of perspective. (And changed perspective must lead to changed action.) We need to lift our eyes to see who is around us and focus on how we can love them in the name of Jesus.

The unexpected thing that happens when we do this is that we find greater purpose, life, and joy. It’s the way things work in the kingdom of God. When you focus on who you can welcome at a worship gathering you will feel more connected to what is happening. When you greet your barista by name you’re coffee will become more than coffee. When you spend an hour on Friday night walking the neighborhood and stopping to talk to people you’ll feel more joy and fulfillment about where you live. We don’t live facing outward with abundant love for our own sake, but in the kingdom of God we are benefactors of this kind of life.

Share your thoughts.

  1. What is one small thing you can do to make sure no one ever feels unwelcome at one of our church gatherings again?
  2. What is your greatest barrier to living an outward facing life with abundant love?
  3. What other reactions came up in you as you read this?

Pin Board Revelations: Love One Another

This post is part of a series that comes from an exercise we did as a church to name our reality. You can read more about that exercise here.

The most overwhelming positive theme was our love and care for each other.

  • “We love well.” (This one had a bunch of pins!)
  • “There’s a strong sense of community.”
  • “People know and love my kids.”

Our family has experienced this and I know many others have as well. We have walked through some great joys and some terrible sorrows. This love and care has not been perfect (we’ll get to that), but that is no reason to deny that sacrificial love and care is a beautiful hallmark of our church. It is not common, and it should be celebrated. This isn’t to pat ourselves on our collective back, it is a clear manifestation of the work of God in and among us. Praise God that he has so deeply rooted this in our DNA! After all, sacrificial love and care for each other is an important aspect of God’s design for the church.

Loving each other well is an important aspect of what the church is supposed to be.

  • “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
  • “Be devoted to one another in love.” Romans 12:10
  • “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2

However, even this one wasn’t unanimous.

  • “I have felt the difficulty of breaking in to the core group when new. Now I might be one of them.”
  • “We let people leave Trailhead too easily.”
  • “No one invites us to dinner/coffee/community. People are warm when I’m present but I feel disconnected–so I have not been welcoming either.”

I think there are a few things going on here.

Which of these resonate with your thoughts and experience?

  • Our greatest care for each other comes in times of crisis (and far from being bad, I think that’s normal). During the “regular” times of life there isn’t as much intention given to care and shared life. We can grow in our intentional investment in each other during those “regular” times, but we also need to understand that it is natural for care to be more intentional and lavish during times of crisis. I once heard someone say that the most important aspect of a small group is to foster relationships so they exist when the “stuff” hits the fan. These are the times we need people most, and that’s okay, as long as we understand that those relationships are the fruit of consistent investment week in and week out.
  • Our actions don’t match our desires. God has made us with a desire for relationships and the church is meant to be a key part of the fulfillment of this desire. However, when that desire goes unfulfilled we can easily focus on our dissatisfaction more than the part we play in that dissatisfaction. We want to be invited, but are we inviting? (Are we accepting the invitations that are offered?) We want to be welcomed, but are we welcoming? If each one of us focused on being welcoming and inviting toward others, in a short time we’d find that we feel more included and connected.
  • We forget the gospel. Jesus went to the cross to provide the means of reconciliation to God and other people. If we are exclusive, cold, or apathetic toward others, we are not living in the reconciling power of the gospel. We also forget Jesus’ example. He went to the ones who were ignored by others. His presence honored the dignity of each person. He couldn’t be equally close with everyone he met, but he was present with each person.

In this area of love and care for one another I see three key questions.

  1. How can we continue to offer sacrificial care for each other so that what has been true of Trailhead in the past will continue to be true in the future?
  2. How can we expand this love and care so that no one feels excluded from it?
  3. What can you do–yes you–to help make Trailhead a church where genuine love and care continue to be a hallmark of our church? (This could be things like attitudes, actions, habits, etc.)

Pin Board Revelations

A few weeks ago we asked you to name the reality of your experience with Trailhead–the good, bad, and ugly–by pinning it to a board. That board revealed some important things. We’ll share these in a series of posts over the next week called “Pin Board Revelations.”

What’s the point of sharing these things? There are a couple reasons it’s important.

First, we need to understand the perspective of our whole church. Not everyone’s perspective is the same, but if we don’t name that it’s easy to think everyone sees things the same way you do. You may feel loved, but if others don’t, it’s important for you to know that. Hopefully these posts will expand our vision to see the whole picture.

The other reason to share these things is so we can do something about them. The culture of our church is not the result of a random set of circumstances, it is the fruit that grows from the way each of us lives in community. The things that are healthy about us will continue to flourish because each of us chooses to continue living in the healthy habits we’ve formed. The things that are unhealthy will only change if each of us chooses to leave the comfort of our unhealthy patterns to forge a new way. We are not victims of uncontrollable forces, we are the actors who shape the reality of our church.

My hope is that each person who is a part of Trailhead will choose to persevere in the healthy habits of our church and be a part of needed change in the unhealthy ones. That’s a choice each of us has to make.

So this week, let’s make this a conversation! Respond to the posts you see. Talk about them together. And let’s move together toward the future God has for us.

 

The Next Four Months

The day Michelle told me she was pregnant with our first child I was overjoyed, and a little nervous. We had no idea how to care for an infant or what our lives would be like once the little bundle arrived. Thankfully, we didn’t have to know on that day. By the grace of God there is a time of preparation built into having children. You find out a child is coming and then you have months to prepare.

We started reading books, buying baby products, and talking to trusted friends who had already begun on the road of parenthood. Of course there’s no amount of preparation that could have equipped us for all the challenges and joys we’d face once our son arrived, but the time of preparation was a gift nonetheless.

A few weeks ago I shared why Trailhead has a future worth fighting for. I laid out some convictions and practical activities that will shape this future. We could be tempted to quickly ask, “Where is this new future? Why aren’t things changing?” But we have intentionally built in a period of preparation before launching into our new season together.

We have set a date, September 10, for the visible beginning of our next season of shared life. But this date is much like my son’s birthday–it is the day when what will happen finds tangible expression, but it is the fruit of preparation and development before that day.

The next four months are a season of preparation for Trailhead. It is a time for us to pray that God’s kingdom would come and his will would be done in and through us. It is a time to discuss things so we are aligned in our vision and passion for God’s work with Trailhead. It is a time to make plans that will provide the needed structure for the things we’ll do.

So I invite you to offer yourself and your gifts to this season of preparation. Deepen your friendships with each other. Look outside our community to what God is doing around us. Lend your voice to the questions that we’ll ask in the coming months. And work to clear whatever obstacles would keep you from freely offering yourself to our next season of life together.