Sunday Afternoon Ramblings (Monday edition)

What a wonderful morning at DHWC! Here are some thoughts on everything.

First off, I want to thank Nicole G and Al S for the coffee that gets made every Sunday morning. Every week, they quietly prepare and distribute coffee to the adult Sunday School classes. It’s tough to communicate how important that is, but yesterday, something funny happened that I think demonstrates it pretty well. When Al brought the coffee to the upstairs adult class, he noticed that the supply of cups was running low. I said I would run down and grab some cups so he didn’t have to make two trips, but I needed to finish one thing first. In the two minutes it took me to do that, someone else went downstairs to look for the cups, and when I went down, they were tearing through the kitchen, desperately searching for cups. I think they were actually going through withdrawal! Okay, so it wasn’t that bad. But that coffee is very important to a lot of people. So thank you, Nicole and Al!

The actual worship service yesterday was rather interesting. Adoration led the music worship with three new songs, a couple of which I had never heard before. Being a little bit different from what we’ve sung in the past, they were a great change of pace! And I was so pleased to see people responding to the words they had never seen or heard by raising their hands in worship and such. Isn’t it great that God can teach us a new song (or three) every now and then!

I was also extremely pleased with the response to the message yesterday. I have known since I began planning this series last fall that it was going to be a tough one because it would hit many of us right where we never like to admit that we are. Quite simply, the call to control what we say is both extremely difficult to realize and extremely easy to overlook. Case in point, later in the day, someone said (I’m paraphrasing here), “Your message was great. I’m so glad I don’t use foul language as much as others down at my work.” Of course, we all realized by the end of the conversation that such statements indicated only that our tongues still need to be brought under control! So, if you missed the message yesterday, here are is the outline, which covers the basic gist of what we discussed: http://www.debraheightswesleyan.org/cgi-bin/molded4/template.cgi?m=sermons&s=7.

Remember, yesterday’s message was just the beginning of a sermon series which will cover the next five weeks as well. And to be perfectly frank, yesterday’s was the easiest message in a lot of ways. The next few weeks are going to challenge us all. And I dare say that many of us will come out feeling rather black and blue. I assure you, it is not my intention to batter and bruise you, personally, with these messages. But over the next few weeks, I would challenge you to allow God’s double-edged sword to slice away those words and jokes and discussions which are not honoring to Him and replace them with things that are.

Before I wrap up this morning, I wanted to take a moment and share with you a few of the things which we discussed in Saturday’s LBA meeting. We started off the meeting looking at the account of Paul’s stay in Ephesus in Acts 19. Here, Paul came across 12 men who had heard about Jesus and embraced the rudimentary teaching of repentance but never heard the rest of the gospel, most notably about the infilling of the Holy Spirit. After Paul explained the full gospel to them, they prayed to receive the Spirit, and Luke (the author of Acts) tells us that they immediately began speaking in other languages and prophesying. To be clear, these two things went hand-in-hand because the ability to speak in other languages was key to being able to effectively communicate the word of God (i.e., to prophesy) in commercial and cultural center of Ephesus. And effectively communicate the word of God is exactly what these people did. You can read the details for yourself, but suffice it to say here and now that, over the course of the next two years, those twelve people literally changed the city of Ephesus, to the point that a riot was started because they were impacting businesses based on the local pagan religions and their sinful lifestyles. Twelve people changed a city of 500,000. Amazing.

With that in mind, we set about trying to establish a few goals for the next two years, and here is some of what we came up with. First, we want to see our church open and receptive to the Holy Spirit in the same way that the disciples at Ephesus were. I am not saying that we will all start speaking in tongues, but I do think that this will mean that we’ll become so filled and consumed by the gospel message that we won’t be able to keep it in any longer! We will proclaim it every chance we get, and more importantly, we will live it every day we wake up. These things, combined, will make it impossible for the people of Des Moines to ignore the power and grace of God. They will notice and want to share in it, just as the people of Ephesus did. They will notice and start to copy it, just as the people of Ephesus did. They will notice and respond with changed lives, just as the people of Ephesus did.

After this spiritual revival, we want to see a numerical gain in our services. This is not just warm bodies sitting in the pews, but changed lives in our community. More specifically, over the next two years, we want to see our church reach an average worship attendance of 60. That represents, essentially, a 50% increase over where we are right now. Amortized out, that is a growth of 22% per year. It sounds like a lot, but when you consider that we grew more than 11% YOY last year, and we’ve been posting similar numbers as recently as November, I really don’t think it’s a tremendous stretch. In practical terms, this will mean that we, as an entire congregation, must invite 8 people to church every week this year, and 12 people next year. That translates to 1 in 5 of us inviting someone every week. I think we can do that!

Obviously, such growth will necessitate a few other things around the church. For instance, we will need to start a real greeters program to welcome guests. We will need to make sure that our Sunday School and nursery are fully staffed. And we will need to start a ministry geared specifically toward young adults in the 18-35 age bracket. Of course, there are more things, and we’ll talk about them in greater detail later, but I want to encourage you to keep your eyes and ears open for all of these things in the coming weeks.

As I told the board on Saturday, Nicole and I have been at DHWC now for going on eight years. For the first several of those years, we very much needed to focus inwardly and get a few things rebuilt, sorted out, and generally taken care of before we could return to an outward-focused ministry. In the last year, I believe that we have reached that corner and started to make the turn. It is time for Debra Heights Wesleyan Church to engage and impact the community in a major way, and if we will only allow the Spirit to fill us with the power and presence of God, I wholly believe that we will!

My friends, I am so excited about what the next 24 months will bring. God is doing amazing things in and through our congregation. We’re not huge by any measure, but it only took 12 men to make a profound impact on the entire city of Ephesus, which was really about the size of the Des Moines metro area. Just think what God can and will do through us!

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