Monthly Archives: September 2009
The Oklahoman reported in an article from May 21st that the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) ratified a measure allowing the ordination of gay and lesbian ministers. According to the article this is a debate that has “raged within the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) for more than three decades.” And though this recent decision finally gave regional church bodies the ability to decide for themselves, some PCUSA Churches have been affirming non-traditional sexual preferences for years. When I read the article I was deeply saddened that the PCUSA has ignored or perhaps abandoned the Bible altogether on this issue. However, some have tried to validate their position with the Bible, including a Presbyterian (PCUSA) Church in Stillwater where I pastor. The following is a blog that I wrote in response to statements made by a Presbyterian Pastor in local newspapers.
“A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.” John Calvin
In the fall of 2009 the First Presbyterian Church in Stillwater held several Sunday evening discussions titled: “Loving Our Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transsexual Neighbor (GLBT)”. That sounds loving and caring doesn’t it? Most people know that God is love and we should love God and our neighbor as commanded in the Bible, (Matthew 22:34-40) and because it is commanded in God’s word I want to love my neighbor, whoever they are. Sincerely, I affirm the need to love and respect all people, because all people are created in the image of God and have intrinsic value. I want to love my GLBT neighbor just as much as I want to love my heterosexual neighbor. But while I agree with what the discussion title is saying, I cannot go along with and remain silent about what the discussion title means. Why? Because it is absolutely contradictory to what the Bible means and is therefore an attack on “God’s truth” and therefore unloving to others. Even if it is not received as love, my intent is to love others by telling them the biblical truth.
Gordon Edwards, pastor of First Presbyterian says that most people incorrectly interpret the Bible when they say that non-heterosexual orientation is sinful. He says, “The condemnation in the Scriptures is of unnatural, abusive, violent, perverted sexual activity – both heterosexual and homosexual.” (From The Daily O’Collegian; Monday, September 14, 2009; p 1) Edwards further comments, “Loving, committed same gender relationships are few within the Scripture; I only recall David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, and Martha and Mary. Each person is called to live responsibly as a creation of God within himself/herself, in relationships with others and the Creator.” From The Stillwater NewsPress; September 11, 2009 (I assert that Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual and Transsexual relationships are all biblically sinful and therefore morally wrong based on the fact that gay and lesbian relationships are biblically prohibited. It stands to reason that if God meant exclusively for a man to love a woman and a woman to love a man as husband and wife, then it is also true that bi-sexual and transsexual relationships are also sinful.)
Is this true? Are loving, committed GLBT relationships biblically defensible and therefore virtuous? As respectfully as I can in love, but also to defend the truth, Edwards’ statements and assertions are just wrong. To begin with, there is no credible evidence that any of the three pairs he mentions were in anything other than a healthy heterosexual relationship. Of course these people loved each other, but not the way David loved Bathsheba or the way the Ruth loved Boaz. There is no evidence that any of these pairs were sexually involved, whereas all over the Bible it is clear that David, for example, “lay with” Bathsheba, or Adam “had relations with his wife”, showing that there was a relationship beyond mutual respect and affection. Consequently, if Ruth had a sexual relationship with her mother-in-law, Naomi, then would it not have been unnatural for her to be married to Naomi’s son and then to be married to Boaz? After all, what makes a relationship “unnatural, abusive, violent or perverted”, if it isn’t going from a husband, to your mother-in-law and then to your eventual husband who is a relative of your deceased husband and mother-in-law? That appears obviously unnatural to me. And if we follow Edwards’ line of thinking, are we also going to say that Jesus was a homosexual? After all, John was referred to as the one Jesus loved and John also lay on Jesus’ bosom. A same-gender and intimate relationship does not necessarily mean that a person is something other than heterosexual.
So aside from the fact that there are no descriptions of approved GLBT relationships in the Bible, neither is there a single verse that prescribes GLBT relationships as morally right and acceptable. In other words, if we laid the prohibitions aside that most people point to as a defense against GLBT relationships, we still run into the fact there is no favorable prescription of such behavior. Where is the verse that says: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his man-wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) Answer: It is not there. Jesus and Paul both quote this verse to talk about marriage and biblical relationship and it is always in the context of heterosexual, a man is married to a woman, covenant relationship. It seems pretty significant, does it not, that if the Bible was going to affirm a certain sexual lifestyle preference as noble and desirable and good that it would have affirmed it outright? And it absolutely does not. Marriage is to be between a man and a woman from Bible beginning to Bible end.
In addition to the Bible giving no examples or statements affirming GLBT relationships, the Bible gives some very clear prohibitions against such behavior. I am even willing to leave the story of Sodom and Gomorrah out of the argument, knowing that proponents of GLBT relationships attempt to argue that their sexual preference in not a sin based on this biblical account because the sin of those in Sodom and Gomorrah was their lack of collective hospitality to the messengers who visited Lot. But in the New Testament, there are some very clear condemnations of GLBT behavior.
But before I unpack two passages from the New Testament, it might be helpful to have some insight into Greco-Roman Culture so as to understand the context of the passages. For instance, it was quite acceptable for men in Roman times to have homosexual lovers who were slaves or even children. In addition, most of the Roman emperors were known to be either homosexual or bisexual. GLBT lifestyle preferences were prevalent and accepted during the time of the Bible, especially in Greco-Roman Culture. Everett Ferguson, Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Abilene Christian University, writes in Backgrounds of Early Christianity:
The numerous words in the Greek language suggest a preoccupation with this aspect of (sexual) life. Homosexuality was a common result in Greek society, which was considered the noblest form of love to be friendship between men. Some of the greatest names in Greek philosophy regarded it as not inferior to heterosexual love, but it was practiced primarily among males between their early teens and early twenties.
Paul was not just being culturally mainstream by opposing GLBT relationships, but rather in his letters to the Christians in Rome and Corinth he was condemning acts and lifestyles that were widely accepted as appropriate. If anything Paul was out of step with the culture of Rome and Corinth and the prevailing thought regarding permissible sexual orientation.
In Romans 1:26-27 Paul writes:
For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for the which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
Paul’s intended condemnation of GLBT relationships reads crystal clear to me, but my guess is that this text as a prohibition against GLBT relationships gets dismissed by proponents of GLBT relationships on the grounds that the relationships this passage is talking about are, “unnatural, abusive, violent, perverted sexual activity (Edwards)”. But let’s give Paul a little bit of credit as a writer or as one who could dictate clearly. To extract from this text that natural GLBT relationships are not the relationships that Paul is condemning in this passage is to ignore the plain meaning of the text. Paul is clear that what is degrading about these relationships is that they are unnatural because they are women with women and men with men. There is no evidence that unnatural means Paul is arguing that a gay man or gay woman shouldn’t be in a relationship with a heterosexual man or heterosexual woman. Paul is condemning relationships that are something other than biblical, loving and committed heterosexual relationships. This can only make sense in light of the fact that elsewhere, (Ephesians 5:21-33 for example) Paul refers to marriage as between a man and woman.
Paul also writes to the church of Corinth in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor the drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
This passage (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) looks to be absolutely definitive, because Paul not only condemns “homosexuals” but also the “effeminate”. The word effeminate (malokoi – grk) is describing the person who is “being passive in a same-sex relationship” (Walter Bauer’s, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature). The word homosexual (arsenokoitai – grk) is describing the aggressive “male who engages in sexual activity with a person of his own sex.” Paul is covering all of his bases, showing that all homosexual behavior is unnatural and therefore sinful. Furthermore, it can’t be argued from this passage that Paul is speaking of an “unnatural, abusive, violent, perverted sexual activity.” If that were the case then how does one arbitrarily argue there are unnatural, abusive, violent and perverted fornicators, idolaters, thieves, covetousness, drunkards, revilers or swindlers? What makes all of these vices unnatural, abusive, violent and perverted is that they are all unnatural, abusive, violent and perverted by God’s moral standard as expressed in God’s word. You can’t say that homosexuality is acceptable to the degree that it isn’t abusive and then say that all forms of adultery are wrong. Any latitude given to homosexuality would also have to be given to the other vices. Are there some thieves that are not unnatural, abusive, violent and perverted when they steal? To take either representation of homosexuality in the passage and try to salvage it is to ignore how nonredeemable the rest of the list is. These particular sins that are condemned by Paul are wrong because it is impossible for them to be right – at least if you believe that the Bible is God’s authoritative word.
To be fair, this passage also reminds us that heterosexual relationships can be perverted and sinful as well. The case for biblical marriage has not been represented well by the staggering number of divorces among those professing to be Christians, as well as by the population at large. Adultery and fornication are perversions of God’s intended plan for a man and a woman, and divorce for any reason among couples is the result of sin and produces sin at some point. As a matter of fact, besides Jesus, I doubt there has never been a person who wasn’t an adulterer in light of Matthew 5:27-30. We are all in need of God’s grace in Christ Jesus, but grace does not increase, or exist, so that sin may continue (Romans 6:1), whether it is the sin of adultery or homosexuality.
To tell people that the Bible does not condemn GLBT relationships is clearly not true and for that reason not loving. Every one of these sins is a violation of an infinitely holy God and to say that a person can participate in these deeds without repentance and not be condemned by God is a perversion of the Bible and it distorts the gospel to the point that whoever teaches this has lost the gospel for both themselves and their hearers. So if someone wants to say the Bible isn’t authoritative or that it isn’t the word of God then that is one thing, but let us not entertain any nonsense that the Bible does not condemn GLBT relationships. To come to a different conclusion requires some very creative, interpretive gymnastics.
The beauty of the God’s word is that whether any person has engaged in homosexuality, adultery, lying, drunkenness, stealing or whatever vice they may be inclined to engage in with their bodies, every person can be forgiven and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 6:11). The same word of God that condemns all sin, whether heterosexual or homosexual, also offers forgiveness and life. So the way you love your gay, lesbian, transsexual, bisexual neighbor is by respectfully telling them the truth. Telling people that they are wrong is not hateful if they are respectfully being told the truth. Of course there is a way to say the truth and there is a way not to say it. On the other hand, it is harmful, even hateful, to say that you love someone and then mislead them about the truth of God. To love someone with your words and actions you must say to them: “We all have sinned against God and we all struggle with sinning against God. We all have vices and as long as we are in our present bodies we will struggle, but while we were yet adulterers, liars, homosexuals, child abusers, thieves and so on, Christ died for us, (Romans 5:8) and bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin (1 Peter 2:24) and live for Him who rose again on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). If we repent and believe (Mark 1:15, Acts 20:21) we will be saved in Christ as a new creation and the old will be gone because the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).
May God give us the grace to be respectfully honest about God’s word so that we can tell others about forgiveness for sins in Jesus. That’s how you truthfully love your neighbor.
It is good that the pastor/preacher is gone from time to time and I can easily prove it. We just finished recording the question and answer podcast from Sunday’s Sermon with Russ Ingram who was our guest preacher and who is an elder at our church. (http://bit.ly/fxA3g) Russ did a great job and did it in an Eagle Heights record of 22 minutes. So not only did Russ do a commendable job of saying what the text meant, but he did it so fast that everyone was early to lunch. Needless to say, I will think twice about letting Russ preach again, because if I let him preach again I might not have a job when I come home. But all attempted humor aside, it is a blessing that the people of Eagle Heights will let me take a weekend away and it is even better than I can trust men in our own church to rightly divide the word of truth when I need to be somewhere else. My absence this weekend confirmed that there are capable and gifted men, displaying the benefit of an absent pastor.
Here are several other reasons that I think it is good for me as the pastor/preacher to be gone on Sunday a couple of times a year:
- My absence reminds people that the church has several pastors or elders who are just as much a pastor/elder as I am.
- My absence gives those elders a chance to be out front and visibly leading in the church.
- My absence reminds people how gifted and talented our staff is in making sure that everything continues just as it would if I were present.
- My absence lets the people of Eagle Heights hear someone else herald God’s word. A consistent voice is good and implied by the office of elder/pastor, but a little variety keeps things interesting.
- My absence lets Mindy and Ryan think they are in charge:) That has got to be worth something.
- My absence from preaching on Sunday allows me to catch up on administrative work such as writing reference letters, doing staff evaluations, meeting with people in the church, working on budget details, etc. etc. There are many things that take a back seat to a full week of study for preaching, being gone and not preaching allows me to catch up.
- My absence reminds me that Eagle Heights is not my church but the church of Jesus Christ who bought it with his own blood. Jesus is the one who will sustain and keep His church, not me. Yes, he has called and even gifted myself and others to lead, but the church is not mine and does not solely depend on me and my efforts. Jesus does not need me for He is the author and sustainer of his bride, by the power of His word, through the work of the Holy Spirit.
- My absence reminds me how much I love the people of Eagle Heights and produces in me thankfulness that God has let me be a part of such a great church. Absence does make the heart grow fonder.
- My absence allows me to go away and be sharpened and challenged and renewed so I can come back and call the people of Eagle Heights to love God’s word and live for His glory through Jesus. It is an amazing gift that the people of Eagle Heights would let its staff go away and be encouraged by others. Consequently, it stands to reason that a challenged and encouraged staff will be better equipped to challenge and encourage the people they serve.
I love preaching at Eagle Heights and I love the people at Eagle Heights, but a couple of times a year it is good and healthy for me to be away. I am grateful that my time in Minneapolis this weekend taught me this truth.
I am not preaching this Sunday because I will be in Minneapolis at a conference. The great thing about having a week where I don’t preach is that I have a moment to catch my breath and get caught up on lot of work like staff evaluations, budget planning, writing reference letters, etc. But getting caught up also means I don’t have a lot of time to write, so I just copy down the writings from the week that I have read that have been meaningful to me. Here are some pericopes from The Knowledge of the Holy, which is the book the staff and I have been reading and discussing during our meetings on Tuesday. I hope that whoever takes the time to read this was as I challenged as I was.
The human mind, being created, has an understandable uneasiness about the Uncreated. We do not find it comfortable to allow for the presence of One who is wholly outside of the circle of our familiar knowledge. We tend to be disquieted by the thought of One who does not account to us for His being, who is responsible to no one, who is self-existent, self dependent and self-sufficient.
Philosophy and science have not always been friendly toward the idea of God, the reason being that they are dedicated to the task of accounting for things and are impatient with anything that refuses to give an account of itself. The philosopher and scientist will admit that there is much that they do not know; but that is quite another thing from admitting that there is something which they can never know, which indeed they have not technique for discovering. To admit that there is One who lies beyond us, who exists outside of all our categories, who will not be dismissed with a name, who will not appear before the bar of our reason, not submit to our curious inquiries: This requires a great deal of humility, more than most of us possess, so we save face by thinking God down to our level, or at least down to where we can manage Him. Yet how He eludes us! For He is everywhere while He is nowhere, for “where” has to do with matter and space, and God is independent of both. He is unaffected by time or motion, is wholly self-dependent and owes nothing to the worlds His hands have made.
Perhaps some sincere but puzzled Christian may at this juncture wish to inquire about the practicality of such concepts as I am trying to set forth here. “What bearing does this have on my life?” he or she may ask. “What possible meaning can the self-existence of God have for me and others like me in a world such as this and int times such as these?
To this I reply that, because we are the handiwork of God, it follows that all our problems and their solutions are theological. Some knowledge of what kind of God it is that operates the universe is indispensable to a sound philosophy of life and sane outlook on the world scene.
Recently, someone loaned me a book (Uniting Church and Home; A Blueprint for Rebuilding Church Community by Eric Wallace) to read because it validates our move to Text/Sermon based Bible Studies by arguing that biblical churches are cross-generational churches that are built on biblical relationships not programs.
In the book Eric Wallace says that the home ought to be the primary place of making disciples (Deut. 6:1-6; Matthew 28:19-20). (By the way, I’m sure this is an issue of contextualization and culture, which Wallace argues in the book, but it must be significant that the Bible nowhere talks about events, programs, youth groups, etc., and yet these are often must haves for “successful churches”.) He rightly says that biblically, as a first step, we should not be outsourcing the transmission of the all-important gospel to others when the gospel ought to be the primary focus of every Christian home. Children’s ministries and youth groups should be supplemental ministries, not the main way people hear the gospel and are trained to be Christ-like.
Another point that the book makes is that too many programs in a church stifle healthy, Christ-centered relationships in churches by presenting way too much material for any normal person to internalize and apply. Wallace says:
On any given Sunday morning, an average household of four will receive the following teachings: one adult Sunday school class, two children’s classes, and the sermon. That is four different teachings, and we have not reached Sunday or Wednesday night yet!
On a conservative estimate, that is six, at the most ten teachings (depending on household size) that a household is responsible to implement in their lives! Given how busy the average household is during the week, especially the hectic work schedules of most fathers and many mothers as well, how can parents be accountable to work through all of this teaching in one week’s time? The church is shoveling out information at an incredible rate.
Is Eagle Heights doing too much? Have we bitten off more than they can chew with our “programming” and therefore tried to “shovel” too much into the minds of people, making it hard to truly understand the Bible and apply it as families and individuals? Has more become less when less would probably mean more? Different people at Eagle Heights might say different things, but I would argue that less would be more if we were all on the same page, studying the same Bible passage and really focusing on applying the intended meaning to our present lives. Would it not be a great thing if people of all ages could assemble together as the body of Christ and hear the word of God taught in the sermon and then in their small group and then go home and sit around the table as a family or with friends and mull it over because we were all studying the same passage? Wouldn’t that at least help the family begin to assume the primary role of discipleship? Wouldn’t that help us be a cross-generational church and foster unity?
I hope so, because that is where we are going as a church. I hope and pray that God gives us wisdom and a smooth transition. I hope and pray that our efforts build strong biblical and Christ-centered relationships for the glory of God the Father in all things.
Note: I am not suggesting entirely that programs are wrong or bad, but when programs become the point of a church and don’t foster Christ-like relationships and transformation then programs are simply religious distractions.
The elders and I were discussing what to do about Bible Studies at Eagle Heights and we had come to somewhat of a standstill, at least until I asked, “Are all of you sure that Sermon Based Bible Studies is the direction you want to go?” To which Lonnie responded, “It is if you want anyone to remember your sermons on Sunday Morning.”
I’m sure Lonnie didn’t mean it quite the way it sounds and no matter how he meant it, he is right. It doesn’t matter who you or I listen to, the reality is that optimally we will only retain about 15 to 20% of what we hear, and that might be a stretch. But what kind of difference would it make if the text that I preached about was also the text the rest of the church was both studying and discussing? My guess is that the retention rate of a text and the level of being engaged would go up substantially. But the elders and I believe that there could be multiple benefits to the sermon/text based Bible Studies and that is why we are excited about what it could mean for the people of Eagle Heights.
Here are some of the potential benefits:
- Increased Attentiveness During Sermons – I always payed more attention in class when I knew there was going to be a test over the material we were coveing. It only makes sense that people would pay more attention to the sermon if they knew they were going to discuss it later.
- Increased Note Taking – Interacting with material causes people to better retain and process information for later discussion.
- Spirited Discussion – I would hope that at some point the sermon that I spent hours and hours preparing would make its way into the conversations of church members, friends and families. I’m a realistic man though and I know that there are many reasons that sermons get buried in the minds of people. But if the sermon content was the same as the Bible Study content, it would help people engage in edifying discussion that has already been initiated by the sermon.
- Church-wide Focus and Unity – I think this one is as important as any benefit because there is just something special about unity and togetherness in the local body of Christ. Especially when that unity centers on studying and applying God’s Holy Word. Instead of our Bible Studies being every group to themselves, we would all be in the same book at the same time, thinking about the same thing.
- Bible Focus – It is hard to argue with the thought that it is better to study one thing and study it well rather than study a lot of things that are never studied in-depth. If something gets covered but only superficially, then it may never sink in enough to really change our lives. A hard but short rain does not nourish the ground like a slow and soaking rain. The Bible needs to soak our souls so it can grow the fruit that the Spirit produces.
- Application – One of the hardest things I do from week to week in sermon preparation is deciding what not to say. I cut a lot of explanation, thoughts and application for the sake of time and one of the biggest losers in sermon trimming is application. But if the background and big idea of a text was taken care of in the sermon, the Bible Study Groups could really focus on what that means for the lives that we live in Christ.
- Finding Leaders – We have some great Bible Study leaders at Eagle Heights, but if we are going to grow we have to have more groups which will require more leaders. However, if we go to sermon/text based groups, leaders won’t have to come up with their own study, just be humble facilitators who listen well and ask good questions. I know some of our leaders love the in-depth study in getting ready for Sunday Morning, but some people don’t feel qualified for this very reason. But if some of the hard work is taken care of during the preaching of the sermon, it stands to reason that more people can lead because they don’t have to be completely responsible for putting together their own personal sermon.
- Discussion Driven Not Lecture Driven – Because a lot of the didactic work will be taken care of in the sermon on Sunday Morning, this will give groups more opportunity to converse and share as opposed to just sitting and listening. It probably isn’t helpful to sit through one sermon in Bible Study only to hear a second sermon a few minutes later when we gather together corporately. Good Bible Study must have teaching, but if that is taken care of in the sermon, then learning can come from conversation instead of lecture.
I’m sure there are other reasons and maybe even better reasons as to why sermon/text based Bible Studies could really benefit Eagle Heights. If you think of other benefits, feel free to post them. May God bless our unified effort to love His word as the people of Eagle Heights.
On Sunday Night at Communication Matters I laid out both a justification for and a plan to tweak and change the way we do Bible Study at Eagle Heights. Here are the highlights.
The Need to Tweak and Change
We need to be able to change and adjust, but we shouldn’t change and adjust for the sake of doing so. We must have good reason(s) because change is never easy. Here are some of the reasons that we are changing.
- We are out of room in our current situation on Sunday Morning. We are committed to continuing on with one service until we must add another. But in the one service/one Bible study format we are out of Bible Study room. We believe we will eventually build and add new space but as of right now we must address the problem of space because there is little to no space for us to grow. Our worship gathering continues to attract new people, but Bible Study/Community Groups is what will keep people. We must accommodate the need for room to connect people to the people of Eagle Heights.
- The 400 Barrier. For many reasons Eagle Heights has bumped up against the 400 mark but has never been able to move beyond it. Admittedly, there are many reasons for this. But we can’t continue to do the same thing and expect different results. We must allow for more people to connect with others in a small group set-up and we need to try new ways to connect people that enable them to grow in Christ. We must be able to grow in number and depth and building limitations aren’t our only limitation. If they were then we would have moved beyond the 400 barrier when were in a two gathering/two Bible Study format. (I acknowledge personally that there is no silver bullet, but we must be willing to admit that a different approach is in order.)
- Futuring Team Recommendations. In the Spring of 2008 a team of six people created a plan and goals for the area of discipleship (Bible Studies). The “emerging vision” of that plan was “to develop a structured, effective, and well-marketed discipleship plan that covers all segments of the church body, championed by the elders and church staff.” That is what we are trying to do. We want to create a comprehensive and intentional plan for helping people connect and grow at Eagle Heights.
- Inconclusive surveys. We recently surveyed all of the adult Bible Study classes and we found out some very encouraging things. For instance, we found that those who were attending really liked the groups they were attending. We found also that those attending found some benefit from the group they attended. Additionally, we found that for most people the Sunday Morning time-slot was favorable. However, there was no consensus on the purpose of the groups. That doesn’t mean the groups weren’t useful and helpful, it just means there needs to be a clear and intentional plan for all our groups. We need to know what we are trying to accomplish as opposed to having groups because that’s what we have done or do.
- Other Consultation. I also visited with a couple of trusted advisers who know Eagle Heights and asked them what they thought needed to happen at Eagle Heights and it was suggested that one of our greatest needs was a church-wide plan for fostering Christ-likeness.
What the Elders Did
- We Met and Prayed – We began to pray about what we might do and evaluate how we might better lead Eagle Heights. We all agreed that something needed to change.
- Book Resource – We all read and discussed a small group book that helped us critique our model and method, as well as the models and methods of others. The basic concept of the book is that we must be sticky or able to connect people at Eagle Heights. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how many people come to our church if just as many go out the back door.
- We listened to others – We collectively met with Curtis Cook who uses a similar model to the one we are proposing (as far as being sermon/text driven). We were able to ask questions and get advice on what has worked and hasn’t. I also met with a former small group pastor to get his insight on Bible Studies.
- We listened to Eagle Heights – I really want people to know that our intent with the survey was to listen to people to best address challenges ahead.
I want to be crystal clear from the outset that what we are attempting to do is to craft and mold a plan that best fits Eagle Heights. We don’t want to try to shove a square peg in a round hole. Of course, there is nothing new under the sun, but we are trying to customize a plan that is uniquely Eagle Heights. We tried to be mindful that what we have isn’t necessarily broken, but it needs to have a thorough tune-up.
- Hybrid Model – Instead of scrapping our whole way of doing things, we decided to keep some of what we have in our Sunday Morning Bible Study, but also adding new Small Groups that meet in homes. No one is going to be forced to abandon their Sunday Morning Bible Study. But we are out of room and there are some who prefer meeting in a more relaxed atmosphere. We will be attempting to start a small number of small groups that meet in homes and asking that people do one or the other. It doesn’t help our current situation to have people start a small group in their home only to also come to Sunday Morning Bible Study. That won’t help our room problem.
- Aim – The aim of these groups will be to connect people in a community of believers that know each other personally or face to face.
- Content – This one is the big change. We are going to ask everyone to go with a text/sermon driven curriculum. For example, we are currently going through Galatians on Sunday Morning. The idea is that our Bible Study groups will also be going through Galatians as well so that they whole church is studying one passage at one time. This will require writing curriculum that goes with the sermon but is different than the sermon. It will also require leaders who are good at facilitating and asking questions. Think about how this will help us in grasping and studying the Bible and also making the sermon more relevant on Sunday Morning, among other benefits.
- Tentative Start Date – January 2010. There is a lot of planning that must be done to make sure that this can work and be done well.
- Further Planning – The elders will be working with the leaders and people of Eagle Heights to plan the details. Please be prayerful about this.
- One or the Other – Again, we want people to either choose one or the other (Sunday Morning or Small Group at Home). We know that some people already do both. We will address that in future considerations and planning.
- Leaders and Volunteers – We will need both to start new groups in the spring of 2010. Be praying about whether God would have you stay where you are or start something new.
- There must be a willingness to be all in – Change is hard. Our intent is not upset the apple cart, but there will be adjustments and we are hoping that people will give this a chance and that people will trust that the elders are trying to lead in a direction that benefits Eagle Heights.
- Time to Work – We must give this time to work. We must be patient. With anything new there will be bumps a long the way, but the elders are committed to this and we must give it time to work the kinks out.
Please be prayerful about this. It may seem like a lot to some of you and not so much to others, but the elders and I really have the best in mind for everyone at Eagle Heights. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask. Many of the details are a work in progress, so we may not have every answer now, but we certainly want to listen to your concerns and advice. My prayer is that this would be a step in addressing some of the challenges that we face so that we can take an unchanging savior to a changing world.