Weeping, Walking, and Hoping after Charleston

June 19th, 2015 Comments off

The rain is relentless and it feels as though all of creation is weeping. Weeping for the 9 lives that were taken and the families they leave behind. Weeping for a church that has lost its shepherd and many of its dearest and most faithful servants. Weeping over a hatred and evil so strong that it could persist even in the face of kindness and warm hospitality from the very people it targeted. Weeping over this man who may have acted alone but is not alone in his racist beliefs. Weeping for our African-American brothers and sisters for whom this story is one they’ve heard and experienced too many times before.

As we continue to grieve what happened in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday night, we must consider how this event is situated within the painful history of not only that city and state but also our nation. We must also consider the history of our churches. African-American churches and denominations (such as the African Methodist Episcopal Church, of with Emanuel A.M.E. in Charleston is a part) have served as a vital, vibrant place of community, nourishment, and refuge for African-Americans throughout the past centuries. While there is much beauty and strength to be admired in these churches, we must also remember that their establishment came, in part, because African-Americans were not (and too often still are not) welcomed in predominately white churches. This has unfortunately been the case in the history of our own denomination of the Presbyterian Church in America.

Last week, Pastors Dave and Dan attended the P.C.A.’s General Assembly (GA) in Chattanooga, along with hundreds of other pastors, elders, and denominational leaders. GA offers an opportunity for church leaders to learn and grow through seminars and worship services, to reconnect with old friends and partners in ministry, and to address a wide variety of topics pertinent to the denomination. Last Thursday night, the final business meeting at GA included an important discussion about racial injustice. One of the founding fathers of the PCA stood to confess his own inaction during the Civil Rights movement as a pastor in Mississippi. This led to a time of corporate prayer, unprecedented in its length and tone, in which (mostly white) PCA pastors and leaders prayed in repentance, confessing both actions and inactions that have hurt racial minorities, especially African-Americans.

A decision was made to defer the approval of an official resolution on civil rights remembrance and repentance until the language of the statement could be perfected for next year’s GA. However, many in attendance affirmed that repentance couldn’t and shouldn’t wait any longer. Some 200-300 elders signed the following statement:

We the 43rd General Assembly of the PCA (the undersigned) understand that repentance is not merely a statement, but steps of faithfulness that follow. Allowing that more time is needed to adequately work on such a denominational statement, but also the need for action now, we recognize and confess our church’s covenantal and generational involvement in and complicity with racial injustice inside and outside of our churches during the Civil Rights period. We commit ourselves to the task of truth and repentance over the next year for the glory of God and the furtherance of the Gospel. We urge the congregations of the Presbyterian Church in America to confess their own particular sins and failures as may be appropriate and to seek truth and repentance for the Gospel’s sake within their own local communities. (To read more about what happened at GA on Thursday night, click here.)

This is a small step, but also a significant one. And the shooting in Charleston this week is a fresh reminder that we need to continue to take “steps of faithfulness” to pursue healing, relationship, love, and justice.  What can we do now to take such steps? A few suggestions for walking forward:

  • Lament, pray, grieve, and hope together: Talk and pray about what you’re thinking and feeling after this week’s events, and create space for others to do so as well. Cry out to God from the depths of grief and anger (Psalm 130). A prayer vigil will be held on Friday evening at 6:30pm at South City Church – consider attending this or another similar gathering.
  • Learn: Media outlets are offering many helpful articles right now on things like the history of the A.M.E. church, the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, and other aspects of racial history in our country. Take this opportunity to educate yourself and understand how this week’s shooting is situated in this history.
  • Love one another: As members of God’s family, we have been loved with a love that overcomes all boundaries and all brokenness (Ephesians 2). We, in turn, are called to love others. In the words of St. Francis of Assisi’s well-known prayer, “Where there is hatred, let me sow love.” How can you sow love today? Perhaps it’s a kind word or a smile. Perhaps it’s an act of generosity or care for a neighbor or a stranger. Perhaps it’s picking up the phone and reaching out. Seek to do so, especially, for those who may be on the margins of our community or who bear the wounds of the hatred of others.

The sun will come out again. We have the hope of a day when every tribe, tongue, and nation will gather together to worship before our King (Revelation 7:9-10). On that day, our voices will join with those of Clementa Pinckney, Sharonda Coleman Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Cynthia Hurd, Myra Thompson, Daniel Simmons Sr., and DePayne Middleton Doctor. Until that day, let us as individuals and as a Crossroads church family continue to take steps of faithfulness towards making God’s multi-cultural Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.

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An Interview with Paul Larson of Wellspring Cleaning

April 15th, 2015 Comments off

by Dave Anderson

If you’ve stopped by the office during the week lately, you may have noticed our new cleaning crew bustling around the building. As we’ve said a thankful goodbye to Janet Swallow, we’ve hired the Wellspring Cleaning company to keep our Maplewood building in top shape each week.

Wellspring isn’t your average company, however. It is a business started by the Larson Foundation that employes mostly immigrants to empower and encourage. I had the chance to interview Paul Larson, founder of the Larson Foundation, about how it all got started and his approach to ministry through finance:

How does a busy guy with a demanding job, wife and large family decided to get busier by starting a foundation? Was there an “aha moment”, verse, or mentor that God used to send you down this path?
My parents were missionaries when they got married and my family has been involved in missions for generations. In addition to having biological children we’ve adopted children (1 Guatemalan child and 3 Filipino children) for a total of eight kids.  I believe that the Lord calls every Christian into missions. I am the 4th generation of firstborn sons who was supposed to go into missions. And I have done the traditional ways of missions support, but felt like it was disconnected from my heart to simply write a check and go on trips. Having graduated with both a degree in Bible and Finance and having started my own company, I was invited by an associate to help start a soybean processing company in Iraq to alleviate poverty, provide meaningful work and a way for the poor to provide for themselves long-term. Even though that company ultimately failed, through that venture, I saw a new kind of missions–venture capitalism mission. I saw a new way to be both a businessman and Christian.

Are you pioneering a new paradigm for mercy ministry in the church, or is this a long-standing approach that we simply don’t hear about much?
There is a field among Christians called Business as Mission (or BAM). Larson Enterprises is not doing microenterprise lending. Rather we are starting a larger entity 100+ person businesses (such as a poultry processing plant in India) that alleviates poverty, provides work, and become profitable. As a businessperson, I don’t see mercy ministry as a separate component of life. In the same way that a christian doctor must respond in mercy to a family who loses a loved one, my entire business philosophy is a form of mercy ministry from the way I try to treat employees, to the reason Larson Financial exists.

Is it safe to call what the Larson Foundation does, “mercy ministry thru micro-enterprise”, or is that a mischaracterization?Why this approach to mission, mercy, and social need?
That is appropriate. Larson Foundation’s business model consists of 5 steps. 1) Identifying the people group (among the many impoverished people groups around the world) as well as the key local leader who will lead the business forward, 2) develop business model (raising the capital from within Larson Financial)  3) get the business financially sustainable, 4) do community development (reinvesting the profits from the business to launch future micro-enterprise businesses for the same purpose), 5) and being a blessing to local communities. This model shapes the way we set up businesses.

Why Well Spring cleaning? What excites you about the Well Spring Cleaning story?
We began with this approach to mercy-meets-microenterprise abroad in places like Iraq and India, and are currently piloting two businesses domestically (right here in St. Louis). Larson will do more in the states going forward in each of the cities in which we operate. Locally we started Narrative Furniture and Wellspring cleaning. We have started these businesses among the unemployed and lower skilled in St. louis to provide a future through meaningful work to people who otherwise have no hope. The majority of employees of both companies currently are immigrants. Wellspring cleaners is employing those needing work and also is profitable. We want to find people who need jobs, set up businesses that they can run well, and help them create a future. We are a biblically-based company with a culture that reinforces our commitment to find people who are ‘goal orientated, servant  leaders, with a warrior spirit’. We press on to lay hold of what Christ calls us to.

If you could speak to this generation (and the rising generation) of Christians who will never serve overseas in either traditional missions or relief work, what would you say?
Identify how the Lord has created you, how has God blessed you so you can be a blessing. What has the Lord made you good at? I felt stuck because I have a degree in Bible and finance. It seemed like I had to choose between serving the Lord with my Bible degree or abandoning that hope to work in finance. I realized that this is a false dichotomy. I am serving the Lord thru my finance background as a Christ follower.

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Oaks of Righteousness

March 6th, 2015 Comments off

by Dave Anderson

I’m relieved winter is winding to a close; I’m turning into a cold-weather wimp, so much so that I’ve told Kari that if Florida retirement ever appeals to me, to take me to the nearest vet and have me put down. I enjoy each season. God is creation’s great artist, and his splendor radiates in unique colors each season. Even in this transitional season, with neither bud nor bright leaf, God paints His glory through aged, withered, yawning, and stark wooden browns.

Commuting to Crossroads, I pass countless telephone poles and aged trees. Although they stand perfectly straight, I never gasp in amazement at the telephone poles. I never stare at such straightness, marvel at their utility (holding up lines), or stare at such perfect symmetry.  But I do marvel at the trees. Some are knotty; others nurse gaping wounds, some heave while others buckle. Some bear gaping scars, hide gnarly blemishes, and show haunting pox. Each tree has weathered howling winds, biting cold, gnawing bugs, scorching heat, and automobile exhaust. Although each has grown slowly and inevitably upwards, not one stands ‘telephone pole’ erect.

Yet, beneath the surface each tree has grown a vast root system. And hidden from sight each has fed generations of squirrels, raised birds, beautified yards, captured the eye of the occasional commuter, and given praise to its creator. Likewise, God grows knotty, wounded, heaving, bent and pocked sinners like us into strong ‘oaks of righteousness’. A tree doesn’t feel its growth. And we don’t daily notice growth. But Jesus says, if we have faith in Him, no bigger than a pinhead (a mustard seed) we’ll slowly, but surely bear much fruit to His glory. As much as I can hardly believe it, because of Jesus we will become Oaks of Righteousness Is. 61:3….Instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

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Why Bother with Lent?

February 27th, 2015 Comments off

by Dave Anderson

What do rowdy Mardi Gras, somber Ash Wednesday, and mysterious Lent have in common? Mardi Gras (aka ‘Fat Tuesday’) is the day before Ash Wednesday, which starts Lent—the 6-weeks leading up to Easter. “Fat Tuesday”- is ‘fat’ because it is the final chance to feast, before the fasting of Lent. Of fading significance in our culture, Lent is the core of the Christian calendar, although Lent gets less “air time” than Advent, because of the festive décor, songs, gifts, trees and shopping sprees which accompany Christmas. Why is lesser known “Lent” our centerpiece?  Because it leads to the ‘crux’ (literally, the ‘cross’) of the Christian faith in Good Friday, then Easter Sunday.

If you’ve had any churchly experience of Lent, it probably included a reluctant ‘pledge’ to refrain from food or fun. Perhaps one of the reasons for Lent’s obscurity is that it has become reduced to religious-rules regarding what foods and fun are allowed, and which are taboo. We need to rediscover Lent’s richness: the value of extended, focused meditation on the “magical moments” of our salvation: Jesus’ last supper, Jesus’ suffering on the Cross (‘passion’), and the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection.

Lent’s real significance needs to be rediscovered for our generation.  The practice of fasting, which can devolve into mere dietary rules, was intended by the ancient church to sharpen our focus upon spiritual repentance.  Biblical examples of fasting are usually linked to repentance from sin, and Lent seeks to build on this pattern.  Whatever practice you adopt during Lent (whether its turning-off Facebook, eliminating comfort foods or substituting extended Bible reading for Netflix watching), your choice to surrender something or attend special services like Good Friday April 3rd, create space in your heart to see your patterns of avoiding Jesus, and to refocus your heart on Him.  Lent is the ideal time to ask God to show you more clearly:  What are my sin patterns?  What are my ‘functional idols’ i.e. the things which are ‘functionally’ more important than God to me?  And the repentance question: How can I turn from my idols which siphon off the affection that Jesus alone deserves?

Listen to Craig Higgins, a pastor from the NY Metro presbytery:  “Keeping Lent… is potentially dangerous, precisely because of this focus on the heart.  After all, it is much easier to read a book on prayer than to spend time leisurely speaking with our heavenly Father.  It is much easier to fast from certain foods than it is to turn from idols of the heart.  It is much easier to write a check than to spend time in ministries of mercy…. The point of Lent is not to give up chocolate; it’s to give up sin!”

I encourage you re-enter the “magical moments” of Lent. Take a prayer walk. Ask God to deepen your appreciation of Jesus’ suffering for YOU, show you patterns where you run from–rather than to–God [HINT: we all have them]. Ask Him to help you name evil and find courage to say ‘no’ to your idols so you can say ‘yes’ to Jesus in a fuller way. Tell a trusted friend what God is showing you during Lent. This will enrich your friendship and invite others to rediscover the value of this ancient and life-renovating season.

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Why Register for our Membership Class? Part II

February 20th, 2015 Comments off

by Dave Anderson

Prove to me that I should join a church? I admit I can’t show you “membership class” in the Bible. But I can show you Christians uniting together in mission and leadership. If we step back and ask, “what does the Christian life look like? Does the Gospel make us independent or interdependent? Is it important to unite with Christians in a more intentional way than we do with your Costco I.D. checker, Mail person, or stranger sharing a Bus awning on Monday mornings?

Church membership unites you to a family to pursue each other’s good (Gal. 6:1-2; Heb. 10:24-24). Friends can “come for dinner”, but family commits to each other through thick and thin.  Dating couples get serious when they have “the big talk” known as “DTR”—Defining The Relationship. In a DTR, partners define the seriousness of the relationship. Relationships all go through difficulty. One of the things that enable you to keep going in spite of the inevitable difficulties is a formal commitment.  In membership, you have the “DTR” with Jesus’ people at Grace Redeemer. Then, by joining a growth group, you “move in.” By joining a Growth group you say, “I commit to you as more than a ‘smiling stranger’; I’m setting down roots with family.” Commitment is crucial for healthy growth. Membership vows verbalize this kind of commitment  (Eph. 5:21). Joining a K-group, translates our membership vows into life reality.

At a time when roughly 16% of the U.S. population relocates every year, the divorce rate stands at roughly 50%, our natural family and extended family support networks are strained, kids are growing up without the benefit of a father’s presence and single moms are overburdened, our culture desperately needs the church as the family of God. In our culture, we may cut ourselves off from family because of our consumer impulses. We spend much of our lives weighing the merits of products: deodorants, cereal, and shampoo. We ‘shop for’ dentists, doctors, even churches. We can easily begin seeing people, even God as a product whose job it is to make me happy. Paradoxically, one benefit of “family” relationships like marriage and parenthood is being required to put others’ needs on par with, even above my own. Likewise, membership and groups wean us from treating people like products we judge to family we love.

What is love anyway? If someone says, “I love my wife” does he mean, a) she’s got no annoying habits and sin, or b) in spite of her perfections I will enjoy and give myself to her? If someone says, “I love my job” does she mean, a) the sight of my boss Monday morning makes my soul sing, all of my coworkers are soul mates and every task seems like a Caribbean vacation, or b) in spite of it’s imperfections, my job fits my interests and skills well—and I feel God-given purpose working here? If someone says, “I love my kids” does he mean, a) I see halos atop their heads, powder-white wings on their backs and everything they do fills me with wonder, awe and praise, or b) in spite of their sin and shortcomings, I will joyfully give myself to them?  Membership—in by public vow and growth group, trains us to love like Jesus—a self-giving oriented love. Loving the church is not being blind to its defects. Loving the church means, I will joyfully give myself to these people, even though see defects [and things I’d do differently if I had my way].

I’ll be honest. I really can’t show you an 11th Commandment reading: “Thou Shalt Join a Church”. But asking for such a command misses the point—and the big picture. A Christian is someone who, by sheer grace, belongs to Jesus—and Jesus’ people. For tribal Christians living in parts of Africa, membership classes and groups may be unnecessary—your village is Christian and is your  group. But materially rich westerner Christians, need a village to learn discipleship. Membership unites you to the tribe, and K-groups are our “villages” where love is offered and experienced.

Whether you’re just curious or committed, click here to register for our Membership class starting Feb. 22

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Why Register for our Intro to Crossroads Class? Part I

February 13th, 2015 Comments off

by Dave Anderson

Prove to me that I should join a church? I admit I can’t show you “membership class” in the Bible. But I can show you Christians uniting together in mission and leadership. If we step back and ask, “what does the Christian life look like? Does the Gospel make us independent or interdependent? Is it important to unite with Christians in a more intentional way than we do with your Costco I.D. checker, Mail person, or stranger sharing a Bus awning on Monday mornings?

Church membership honors nearly 2000 years of church history (Acts 2:47; 1 Tim. 3:1; Hebrews 13:17). Although there is no thorough description of how the ancient church received members in Scripture, that it received members is clear.  The book of Acts tells us that new converts were added to their number.  1 Timothy describes the primary church leadership position using the terms elder and overseer.  Although it’s a deduction again, it’s a reasonable one.  It would be functionally impossible to oversee any body of people who have made no pledge to any truth, duties or each other.  Hebrews urges Christians to submit to spiritual leaders over them, implying once again, some official, recognized commitment between leaders and members.  The ancient church adopted a formal system of catechizing, or instructing new converts before they were received as members in the church community.  This practice, of receiving members into Christ’s church, has stood the test of nearly 2000 years, is supported implicitly in Scripture, and was the church’s practice for the past 2000 years.  Such a practice merits our real consideration. And in Acts, early church ‘members’ shared life together –meals, prayer, apostles teaching. Interestingly, they “continued” to meet together in this way.

Public church membership vows identify you formally as a believer in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:19; Rom. 12:5). Much like public wedding ceremonies, a “membership” tells the world you belong to Jesus and His people.  You’re attached, and no longer a “in circulation.” You’d probably feel hurt and suspicious of a spouse who took off his ring before heading to the office.  Just as both spouses wear their bands in public, membership is the church’s “wedding band” and public declaration. In becoming a member, we make mutually binding promises.   Public declarations solemnize important commitments: marriage, election to public office, swearing in, and giving public testimony in a court of law. Even if you seldom think about your ring, others seldom notice your hand, and your spouse hasn’t noticed, the public ceremony and wedding band are ring are tangible reminders of our vows to find our lives in laying them down for our spouses.

Whether it’s losing weight, getting a degree, learning to play the piano, it’s hard to make progress without healthy, well-intentioned “peer pressure” to help us translate our noble aspirations into concrete action. Public vows and personal membership commitments invite healthy peer pressure to for us to keep going with Jesus. It’s true. Many people simply attend a church, many simply ‘shack up’, and judges, policemen, politicians, spouses and pastors break their vows. But ask yourself, ‘would this world be a better place if we never aspired to something great, made vows, and banded together to love others?’ Why join a Church? It’ll help you live for the one who loved you lavishly!

Whether you’re just curious or committed, click here to register for our Membership class starting Feb. 22.

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Showing God’s Kingdom Values

February 6th, 2015 Comments off

by Dean Hollenbeck

Does God look at the different ministries of Crossroads and distinguish one as being more important than another? Will He say that the Elder’s prayer for the church is more important than the sermon? Does God think that singing songs of praise is more important than tithes and offerings?

I will admit that I don’t know the answer. I will also admit that I have a finite capacity to see how God’s Spirit is moving and working within the different ministries of Crossroads. Maybe the real question for us is not what is more important, but how is each ministry of Crossroads displaying God’s kingdom values.

The ongoing ministry to our youngest children in the nursery is often overlooked. Maybe some would even suggest that it is less important than other ministries in our church. However, as the Next Gen Pastor, I reflect with delight about how God’s kingdom values are proudly displayed in the nursery.

What are some values on display in the nursery?

Love – Jesus commanded His followers to love the neighbor (Mark 12:30-31).

Including children in the family of God – Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 19:13-15)

Mutual Submission and Service – “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:1-17)

Caring for the Least of These – “… as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matt 25:31-46)

My goal for listing the above values is not to guilt anyone into service. Rather, I share with a sense of delight that God is using this ministry to bless precious hearts in our congregation, which includes our parents and visitors. It is also a blessing for those who serve in the nursery. Our nursery workers have been given an opportunity to display some of God’s kingdom values to our little ones.

Thank you to everyone who has chosen to serve in the nursery. I know that it can be difficult at times, and you probably do not receive all of the appreciation that you deserve. Again, thank you for caring for precious hearts within our community.

And a special thank you to our Super Awesome Nursery Coordinators! They oversee recruitment, training, cleaning, and managing the nursery schedule. I appreciate each one of you!

no photo available for Lena Ivanchuck

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How You Can Love our Singles Well

January 30th, 2015 Comments off

by Jenilyn Swett

When people think about the demographic makeup of Crossroads, what tends to come to mind most quickly is “lots of families with young kids.” While this is true, if you take a closer look you’ll also see couples without kids, families with much older kids, empty nesters, college students, and a growing number of unmarried women and men. Our pastors have asked me to share a bit today from my perspective as a single woman at Crossroads. You may not be surprised that I’m delighted by this opportunity (and hence a bit wordy).

In her book Living into Community: Cultivating Practices that Sustain Us, author Christine Pohl writes about the necessity of promise-making and –keeping in community.

We make and depend on promises because we know that, as human beings, we are often inconsistent, and we find it hard to live and love without some assurances. Commitment, as Margaret Farley notes, ‘is love’s way of being whole while it still grows into wholeness,’ […] In the words of philosopher Hannah Arendt, when we make and keep promises, we create ‘islands of predictability’ amid the ‘unpredictability of human affairs’ and the ‘unreliability’ of human beings (p 65).

This passage seems to name what is, for me at least, one of the deep aches of singleness. “We find it hard to live and love without some assurances.” The covenant made between a husband and wife creates a safe space in which love and unity can grow, and the two individuals involved can grow in wholeness as individuals and as a couple, dwelling together on an island of predictability in the midst of life’s unpredictable weather.

Certainly, marriage doesn’t last forever and promises can be broken. Marriage is not ultimate assurance, ultimate safety, ultimate predictability. But while that reality puts my longing in correct perspective, it doesn’t take it away. And it shouldn’t. Because marriage is meant as a good thing. Marriage was designed so that two would become one, and would be in it — whatever “it” turns out to be — together. ‘Til death do us part.

Yet while I lament the lack of such a promise in my life right now, this is why belonging to a church is so important to me. When I joined Crossroads (five years ago this weekend!), I made a promise to our church family, and y’all to me: a promise to walk together with one another, to rejoice and mourn together, to challenge and encourage one another in our spiritual journeys. This is a sweet promise and commitment, because even as individuals come and go from a particular local church and one-on-one relationships change, the church itself remains. There is still, by God’s grace, a place to belong, a wider community to whom to belong.

Crossroads is blessed to have an increasing number of single folks among its members and visitors. But, we find ourselves in the minority. I’ve written at length elsewhere about how single adults can embrace the church, but I want to take a moment now to scratch the surface of how the members of the church – especially those in the church who are married – can love and fulfill their promises to those who aren’t. Many of you are already doing some or all of these things; thank you, and please keep it up!

1. Seek to include and befriend.

If you find yourself juggling two or more individuals’ schedules in your family life, wrangling children, and managing home, work, and neighborhood responsibilities, it can be easy to overlook those who are single. But consider how you can include single people even in the midst of what your life already entails. Invite us to join you in the pew or for lunch after church. Invite us to join you at your dinner table (and a last-minute invite is better than nothing!). Invite us to join you for a community event or birthday celebration or family movie night. Need an excuse for a guys’ or girls’ night out? Invite us – maybe we’ll even be willing to take care of the planning! If it crosses your mind to extend an invitation, don’t talk yourself out of it – do it! Singleness can be a particularly solitary, lonely season, and pursuit and companionship are great gifts.

(I should add that there are also particular ways in which singleness can be busy and exhausting. If we have to say no to an invitation, we’d probably love to be invited again at another time.)

2. Don’t assume – ask!

We know that every person’s story is different and unique, but it can be easy to make assumptions about a group of people. As you build relationships with single people in our church and in your life, ask questions! As you get to know us – our stories, our vocations, what we’re passionate about – also learn about our experience of singleness. The blessings and challenges of singleness are not the same for each one of us. Not every single person wants to be married. Not every single person thinks online dating is the answer (nor does every single person think it’s not). Not every person is open to being set up with your eligible [cousin/friend/neighbor/co-worker], but some of us are! Don’t make assumptions. As you build relationships, ask these questions and listen well to the answers.

3. Make space for lament.

As relationships continue to grow, strive to create safe space for open conversation about the things that are hard and painful about this season of life. Talk about heartbreak and disappointment and the things we don’t understand, and bring these things before the Lord together. Most importantly, let this be a two-way street! That doesn’t mean that you should say that you understand how a single 33-year-old feels because you were single for approximately 2 months after college. That does mean that in the context of a trusted relationship, it is right and good to acknowledge the commonality we can find in our longings and in the pain of things that are not the way they’re supposed to be.

4. Consider our practical needs.

While our relational needs may be significant, singleness brings with it more than its share of practical needs. Most of us don’t have an automatic go-to person when we need a ride to the airport, when our car is in the shop, or when we’re miserably sick. We’re on our own for making decisions large and small. Many of us live alone, which means we’re the only ones who ever take the trash out, we take care of (or let slide) our own “Honey Do” list, and we probably do a little (or a lot) less cooking that we’d ideally like to. Consider the particular ways that you and your family might be able to minister to the practical needs in the life of a single person you know.

Unmarried and married – we all need each other as brothers and sisters in the family of Christ, and I am so grateful for the Crossroads family! Y’all know I could go on, but for now I’ll end this here. I’d be happy to pull up a chair and talk more over dinner with you and your family 😉

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Becoming a Missional Church, Part 2

January 23rd, 2015 Comments off

by Dave Anderson

This post is Part II or a series. Click here to read Part I

Last year our West Campus offered an ACE class on “Our Worshipping World.” This past Saturday, our K-group leaders heard a challenge from Dan on the Art of Neighboring (knowing and loving our actual neighbors holistically i.e. serving them physically, relationally and spiritually). Last Sunday at our East Campus, we began a discussion on Tim Keller’s, The Reason for God to equip us to engage spiritual questions. We also invited everyone to consider hosting a “mixer” Super Bowl Party as one tangible step toward practicing hospitality toward our neighbors. Why this “neighbor love” theme? Why now?

Refocusing on Jesus’ Mission: Each of us must intentionally initiate hospitality and hobby time with our neighbors seeking love them in deed and word . In many churches, leaders spend nearly all discretionary time with Christians. We run from meeting to meeting with church people, host church friends for dinner, attend church Bible studies, patronize Christian businesses, attend Christian conferences, play in church sports leagues, and attend Christian schooling events. No quality time is spent among our non-Christians neighbors. In fact, a maturing Christian can spend nearly his or her entire life encapsulated inside a ‘Christian bubble’ and rise to leadership having had no real experience befriending non-Christians. When inspiring calls to “evangelize” ring out from a pulpit, few can do anything because our lives are packed with with private entertainments or ministry commitments. We are either cocooning inside our family rooms, or we are exhausted at our church. Missional churches challenge Christians to schedule time, and create space for loving our neighbors in three ways: 1) dieting from our super-sized amusements 2) balancing church ministry with neighbor love, and 3) spending  time outside church with our next-door neighbors. If our entertainments or church-program cocoons are left untouched, Jesus’ mission to take the Gospel to outsiders gets functionally abandoned.

Ministries Adapted for “Spiritual Explorers”: Evangelical statesman John Stott offered classes in his London based, Anglican All Souls Church called “Agnostics Anonymous” specifically to minister to spiritually curious friends of members who have faith questions. A church that is serious about being missional will eagerly consider groups, seminars and classes for friends to explore Gospel basics. A missional church will continually ask, “if I were a spiritual-explorer, what would make Crossroads hospitable and inviting to me? What groups, forums or classes might we add, dismantle, recycle, or restructure in order to minister not just to long-time Christians, but those who don’t yet believe?”

Hospitality Encouraged: Jesus’ command to practice hospitality—a requirement for pastors and elders—generally refers to “the welcoming of outsiders”. ‘Fellowship’ is the welcoming of believers. Pastors, elders and leaders should be encouraged to obey God’s Word by seeking to be practitioners of hospitality to our own neighbors and coworkers (with invitations into our homes for dinners, desserts, parties, and cookouts)—extending the befriending love of Christ in tangible ways. Many people will not even consider the verbal message of the Gospel until they experience it neighbor love. When we model befriending grace to outsiders, entire churches often experiences spiritual renewal and deepened love.

Preaching to Believers and Unbelievers in Sermons: The pulpit ministry is the God-given engine that steers the church. If believers and unbelievers are both addressed directly in the sermons—the weekly pulpit ministry can summon both groups of people to repentance and faith in the Gospel. Preaching and teaching that addresses both groups of people creates an incentive for members to bring non-Christian friends. Why? A churchgoer with an ounce of spiritual heat in his heart will find himself thinking, “this message was challenging for me, but I wish I had brought my friend with me—that’s exactly the issue he and I were talking about last Thursday over lunch!”  As this dynamic takes root, fewer newcomers say, “we found your church through Google,” and more people say, “we were brought by the Jones’”.

Please opt into the outreach training we’re offering, and take a real step of faith in 2015 by hosting a Super Bowl Party to love your neighbors. Regardless of who wins the game, you are helping Crossroads become more effective ambassadors for Christ as you move out in ‘missional love’ toward your neighbors!

*If you’d like to host a Super Bowl party to love your neighbors (i.e. unchurched friends) but would like “seed” funds to help you host a great party, Crossroads will reimburse 50% of your outreach party costs (up to $30) to help you cover snacks and drinks. Please email the office (crossroadsmaplewood@gmail.com) by January 28th for approval or with questions on the outreach funds offered.

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Becoming a Missional Church, Part I

January 16th, 2015 1 comment

by Dave Anderson

Last year our West Campus offered an ACE class on “Our Worshipping World.” This past Saturday, our K-group leaders heard a challenge from Dan on the Art of Neighboring (knowing and loving our actual neighbors holistically i.e. serving them physically, relationally and spiritually). Last Sunday at our East Campus, we began a discussion on Tim Keller’s, The Reason for God to equip us to engage spiritual questions. We also invited everyone to consider hosting a “mixer” Super Bowl Party as one tangible step toward practicing hospitality toward our neighbors. Why this “neighbor love” theme? Why now?

In “evangelistic” churches, evangelism is one ministry among many (populated by a few zealous  lay people). In 1950’s America, this church model “worked” because churches could assume that work colleagues and neighbors attended some church: the only question was which denominational “flavor.” They may not have believed the Gospel, but they at least assumed a Christian worldview was plausible, even preferable to others—and exposure to Christian teachings would be beneficial. Churches could take for granted that Gospel concepts such as sin, heaven, hell, and a personal God would be widely held. Churches could assume that, compelled to attend some church, the community would find their steeple. Church planters I’ve spoken with who planted churches in the 70s and 80s could mail scores of invitations to locals, assuming “if our building is attractive, sign visible, and programs staffed, a steady stream will pour into the church and stay put.

Today’s church planters discover those assumptions are no longer valid. Churches adopting a “wait and wish” approach to their neighborhoods are declining. A met budget may mask the ineffectiveness for a season, but a godly zeal for the Gospel that started the church in its earliest years, lays dormant now–contributing to the church’s slow decay.

America is once again a mission field; postmodernism has arrived. All “paths” are seen as equally valid, all choices, are merely taste and preference. Tolerance, open-mindedness and inclusion are the functional Holy Trinity of postmodern America. Many churches still want to believe that as long as we run programs, staff ministries and fund mechanisms for ‘targeting’ our neighbors (i.e. direct mail, newspaper ads, and phone book listings), our neighbors eventually will stumble up to our steeple. Early success allowed churches the luxury of believing that impersonal mechanisms could carry out an entire church’s mission to its community; members needn’t actually see themselves as missionaries.

What will it take for Crossroads to move from an evangelistic church to a Missional church as our neighborhoods slowly drift towards post-Christian? What might it mean for Crossroads to move from a church with “outreach events” to a church as a missions-post in an increasingly secular society?

Defining a Normal Christian Life Biblically: Am I really living what I claim to believe?” Within each of us there exists a disconnect (read: hypocrisy) between what we claim to believe on Sunday and how we actually live on Monday. Thankfully Jesus treats us not as our sins deserve but according to His mercy! However, if we then define “normal Christian living” not according to the Bible, but according to 2014’s experience, we are in trouble. We can then dismiss all the enthusiasm and zeal of the early church as being “back in the old days, when God was really doing something, and Christians got naively excited about what it meant to be a follower of Jesus.” From the Bible’s definition of a “normal Christian life” risk-taking for the Gospel lay out the heart of Christian discipleship. But in our re-definition of “normal” we suspect God is no longer actively involved in this world with great power so we no longer take risks (like earlier Christians did) for the gospel. We gather on Sunday for hymns and preaching that we functionally don’t believe. It is the first task of a missional church to call into question the re-definitions of Christianity, gospel and discipleship that easily hijack our hearts.

Training Encouraged for Everyone (Required for Leaders): Missional churches train their members in how to share the gospel. In 1950s America, monologue evangelism, such as “Evangelism Explosion”, was effective. It assumed our neighbors believed in heaven and hell and a knowable God. Today most doubt the reliability of the Bible, and question the reality of heaven and hell. Therefore, dialogue evangelism such as “3D Evangelism”,  “Our Worshipping World” and “Reason for God” groups are more effective, as we build bridges of hospitality to provide ‘pastoral care’ to spiritually-curious people. Rather than viewing evangelism training as optional “extra-credit” training for a few super-leaders, missional churches will view this equipping as “basic training” for everyone (and especially important for emerging leaders).

Please opt into the training we’re offering, and consider taking a step of faith in 2015 by hosting a Super Bowl Party to love your neighbors. Regardless of who wins the game, you are helping Crossroads become more effective ambassadors for Christ as you move out in missional love to your neighbors!

*If you’d like to host a Super Bowl party to love your neighbors (i.e. unchurched friends) but would appreciate “seed” funds to help you host a great Super Bowl party, Crossroads will reimburse 50% of your outreach party costs (up to $30) to help you cover snacks and drinks. Please email the office (crossroadsmaplewood@gmail.com) by January 28th for approval or with questions on the outreach funds offered.

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