Carousel Ride - Pastor Lisa Roberson - October 10, 2018

Life is like a box of chocolates…..not really Forrest, it’s more like a carousel ride.  Carousels are much more reflective of life than chocolates.  On the carousel/life, a ticket master/Master decides when we may climb aboard the ride, how long our ride will be and only he/He knows when and how we will exit.  As we embark on our adventure there are two riding options, a stable bench where we sit passively watching life pass by or the traditional carousel horse with its ups and downs. 
Choosing the bench is like choosing plain oatmeal for breakfast, its blah flavored, no risk and easy to endure.  The carousel horse is different story.  It takes us down low, to the darkest part of the trip, where there isn’t much to see but the worn shoes of the other riders and a scuffed up, dirty floor.  Then comes the awesomeness of the upward rotation.  The brightness of the day shines forth and joy radiates from the faces of other riders.  A reward is offered as well.  A hanging brass ring begs to be snatched from its resting place by those who are willing to keep their eye on the prize, willing to take a risk, willing to step out in faith.
Our God given dreams are that shiny brass ring.  We know our dreams are God driven when they are in line with His will, His commandments and are a blessing to others and the Kingdom.  My God given dream is to pastor my own church and to do good Kingdom work “so that none should perish”.  What are your God given dreams?  What would it mean to take a risk and reach out for those dreams with gusto and flare?
We have so loved serving with, and alongside you.  We are beyond thankful for the kind words and many blessings you have poured over us the last several weeks.  We may no longer call Richland Naz home but there will always be a home in our hearts for you.  God is loudly calling us to follow the dream He placed in our hearts and we pray, as God begins to call Richland to a new dream, that you will grab that brass ring with all you have and may good Kingdom work be done.

Till we meet again~ Blessings
Pastor Lisa and Ed         

Two Month Progress Report Part Three - Pastor Jerry Carter - October 4, 2018 

Part 3 of 3

In the first post of this Two Month Progress Report series, we looked at the need for a strong, biblical understanding of the power and purpose of prayer. Nothing will happen without this foundation.

If a lost-centric prayer life doesn’t permeate every ministry, group, and team of the church, the church will not reach out and it will die. Prayer is not a supplement or “healthy choice.” It’s the only choice.

In the second post we looked at the need to “clean house.” By eliminating programming complexity and confusion we could clarify spiritual Next Steps and provide a strategic, graduated purpose for each of those spiritual Next Steps.   

To this end, Judy Bacon (your SDMI Chairperson) and I have assembled the various groupings and ministries of Richland Nazarene into four broad categories or levels of discipleship that create a natural progression of purpose and spiritual significance in a growing believer’s life.

Information-centric Classes are a low-risk,Next Step for those wishing for a relational, “toe in the water,” experience before stepping up to a more immersive Life Group. Also ideal if you’re just thirsty for God’s Word!

Relationship –centric Life Groups are an ideal,Next Step if you’ve decided to plant roots at Richland Nazarene and know you’re ready to invest in deeper relational connections and community.

Service-centric Ministry Teams are the essential Next Step for those ready and willing to serve and love like Jesus.

Companionship-centric FELLOWSHIP GATHERINGS are the easy, “no pressure”Next Step for those just wishing to share a meal with friends, new and old. No membership required…just show up!

In this final post of the series, we will address the need to challenge/leverage every ministry, program, class, or group towards outreach/evangelism by discovering the power of Cheap, Easy & Fun,and Repeatable, Relational, & Joinable.

To fully appreciate the power of Cheap, Easy, & Fun and Repeatable, Relational, & Joinable, the leaders at each STEP must embrace the power and significance of that step while consistently encouraging the deeper Next Steps necessary in every believer’s spiritual journey.

Cheap, Easy, & Fun describes the type of activities each class, group, and ministry should be hosting in order to both invite friends from outside the church and to draw up from the previous STEPS.

For example, a Sunday morning CLASS might host a breakfast to draw up from those attending Sunday services but not yet connected to any group. A Men’s LIFE GROUP might host a Saturday Caregiver’s Breakfast for the community and draw up from those attending Sunday morning CLASSES but not yet a part of any LIFE GROUP. A MINISTRY TEAM such as the Worship & Arts Team might host a community choir for the community and draw up budding artists from our CLASSES AND LIFE GROUPS.

Repeatable, Relational, & Joinable describes the best possible attributes of any given servant-evangelism effort.Repeatable and relational are either side of the same coin. Both are premised on the ideas that evangelism works best when it’s relationally-driven and relationships form with repeated exposure.  Therefore, Adopt-a-Highway is repeatable but not very relational and Trunk-or-Treats can be fairly relational but aren’t repeatable but for once a year. The goal of Repeatable & Relational is to keep coming back to the same ministry opportunity regularly enough (weekly/monthly/periodically) to establish the relationships necessary to share Jesus.

Joinable describes outreach and service efforts for which the community has a passion and would likely join any effort promoted or advertised. Think of hosting Caregiver’s Seminars, Foster Parenting Classes, Youth Sports, First Responders' Appreciations, Adopt-a-School, Adopt-a-Park, etc.

Joinability is premised on evidence that people today are finding faith through a desire to significantly belong rather than correctly believe. We might not like it but correctly believing is an afterthought. We’ve said it several times now, people don’t care what we know until they know that we care.

The goal then is for every CLASS, LIFE GROUP, MINISTRY and GATHERING to creatively use the concepts of Cheap, Easy, & Fun and Repeatable, Relational, & Joinable to raise the evangelistic temperature at Richland Nazarene several degrees on all fronts and to begin turning our focus from the 99 to the 1.

Don’t Just Listen... DO. - Pastor Bri Hickman- September 18, 2018

How many times do you need to hear a message for it to click and you do something God is calling you to do?

I read this story a while back about a pastor arriving at his new church with a sermon he had been preparing for weeks. He preached the sermon his first Sunday, and everyone gave him great feedback and went home thinking “oh yay, he’s a good preacher and prepares a message well”. They were eager to hear his next message the following Sunday and arrived at church just to hear the same message being preached. People gave odd looks, thought to themselves that it was odd to hear the same message 2 weeks in a row, but no one asked him why he preached the same message. Everyone went home again hoping to hear a different message the following Sunday, because “they really hoped they wouldn’t have to hear the same message for the next however many years”. They arrived at church the next Sunday. The pastor began preaching his message. The same message. For the third week in a row. Someone stood up during his message and asked, “pastor, we’ve heard this same message for 3 weeks now, do you not know how to prepare a different message every week?” The pastor responded, “I know what I’m doing. I will move on to my next sermon when you start living out the one I’m preaching now.” 

What if we lived this way? What if we reread scripture and we couldn’t move on until we lived out what it is calling us to?

What if we listened to sermons with the thought that it doesn’t end with the sermon, but it continues with how we put it into practice?

This would mean intentionally listening to what God is trying to tell you through scriptures and messages. It also means being Intentional with doing what He is calling you/us to do.

Matthew 5:14-16 “day You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Don’t be a lamp under a basket, hidden and not doing what it is intended to do, but instead be a light that shines in the dark places, and does the work of the Lord. Listen intently and ACT on what He is calling you to do!

-Pastor Bri

Two Month Progress Report Part 2 - Pastor Jerry Carter - September 14, 2018

Part 2 of 3

Two Month Progress Report - Part Two of Three

In my last post I zeroed in on the need for a prayer strategy of unity and focus. Our message series on prayer taught us that most of what Jesus said on prayer always came back to the task set before His followers gathered together as the church. Knowledge of scripture and loving relationships with our neighbors are both beautiful gifts in and of themselves but ultimately help us pursue the task set before the church.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”      Matthew 28:18-20

To that end, my second post in a series of three;

2. We need to “clean house” by…

       a. addressing programming complexity/confusion in order to clarify spiritual Next Steps
       b. providing strategic, graduated purpose for each spiritual Next Step
       c. re-envisioning or re-imagining low impact/competing programs

Important to note, as in the first post of this series, the need to clean house isn’t a reflection of the heart and passion of Richland Nazarene as much as the reality of the vision drift that occurs during times of transition. Things are just a bit loose and wriggly at the seams and an overhaul is just the ticket!

While recognizing the importance of the worship service as a key first step in the discipleship process, cleaning house at this point will focus on the various groups that make up our SDMI (Sunday School & Discipleship Ministries international) department.

Judy Bacon (your SDMI Chair) and I are currently embracing four categories/types of groupings, each with specific purpose and power at each step of a person’s spiritual journey. Nothing revolutionary or earth-shattering, just clearing the waters a bit for clarity sake.

Our aim is to encourage the leaders in each category to embrace the power and significance of that category while consistently encouraging the deeper Next Steps necessary in every believer’s spiritual journey. Ideally, every person attending Richland Nazarene would participate in at least one type of grouping although many will enjoy several.

Information-centric Classes are a low-risk,Next Step for those wishing for a relational, “toe in the water,” experience before stepping up to a more immersive Life Group. Also ideal if you’re just thirsty for God’s Word!

Classes are primarily biblical or topical studies and usually “taught” by a teacher who directs most of the discussion and questions. One class might be a dialogue around tables, another, rows or half circles facing the teacher/leader. Most classes are conveniently offered Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights. This allows the entire family to learn in multiple, age-appropriate classes.

Relationship –centric Life Groups are an ideal,Next Step if you’ve decided to plant roots at Richland Nazarene and know you’re ready to invest in deeper relational connections and community.

Life Groups are the best way to intentionally connect to a smaller group of folks with similar interests or life stages. Young marrieds, wisdom seekers, singles, parents of teens, and all of our men’s or women’s are all Life Groups. Bible studies might play a role, even a central role, but take a back seat to relationship building activities like prayer and potlucks, game nights, or just hanging out in someone’s backyard, pool, or around a kitchen table.

Service-centric Ministry Teams are the essential Next Step for those ready and willing to serve and love like Jesus.

Depending on the ministry, the level of commitment and servant-hood might be considerably higher than in Classes or even Life Groups. Although every Ministry Team has a place for every person wishing to serve, professional training, skills, talents, gifting, personality traits, heart, passion, and life experiences all play significant roles for those serving on Ministry Teams and may elevate or limit an individual’s desire to serve.

Companionship-centric FELLOWSHIP GATHERINGS are the easy, “no pressure”Next Step for those just wishing to share a meal with friends, new and old. No membership required…just show up!

In my next blog post, the third in the series, the end result of our classes, groups, teams, and gatherings;

3. We needed to challenge/leverage every ministry, program, class, or group towards outreach/evangelism by discovering the power of Cheap, Easy & Fun, and Repeatable, Relational, & Joinable, and Vectoring.

Let Us End Well - Pastor Lisa Roberson - September 11, 2018

When thinking about this blog, I wanted it to be happy, encouraging and full of future hope.  It was supposed to be a word document which presented a polished, glittery and gleaming future.  I knewSundaywas coming and this blog was supposed to be a counter balance to the news I was leaving.  (And yes, I know, not everyone is sad. I learned long ago I am neither as good nor as bad as people in the church family believe.) 
          Then, Monday morning happened, it should have read on my calendar, “sucker punch day”.  I felt polished~ I combed my hair and brushed my teeth.  I didn’t feel glittery or gleaming.  Arrows of reality struck dead center in the middle of my heart.  The fact I’m leaving behind people I love and letting go of security weighs heavy on me.  God has amazing plans for this church body and for Ed and myself.  And yet, this hurts.  I feel sad and fearful.
          At times, as Christians, we view pain and fear as a lack of faith.  If we were “prayed up” enough the arrows of reality would bounce right off our hearts.  We tell ourselves if it is God’s will then we must celebrate and stuff feelings of distress somewhere out of reach, in the dark parts of our soul.  The truth is God sees the hurt, sees the fear.  He doesn’t want us to try and hide it from Him, our Father wants us to bring these feelings to him.
          Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  With these words the Father is acknowledging Joshua has lost the mentor he loves and is now the leader of God’s people, no small responsibility.  It’s like He is saying, “Joshua, I see your pain and fear.  I’m not telling you to ignoring them, I’m reminding you, I know what’s happening in your heart and I am here with you always.”  We have permission to be sad, we have permission to be fearful.  We also are reminded to bring those feeling to the One who loves us unreasonably and completely.
          As the door of our time together is beginning to close…

Let us grieve well.
Let us celebrate well the good things God has done in our time together.
Let us share fond memories and embrace the laughter and sadness they will bring. 
Let us be transparent, honestly sharing our feelings with others and with our Maker. 
Let us grab tightly to our Father’s hand as he leads us in different directions.
Let us pray for one another as we begin a new journey.
Let us love well. Let us end well.

-Pastor Lisa

Two Month Progress Report - Pastor Jerry Carter - September 5, 2018

Part 1 of 3

During my couple months at Richland Naz my first priority has been meeting people. To chat and laugh, but also to share stories and journeys. By way of these conversations and the inevitable evolving of my understanding of what God might want to do through Richland Nazarene, I am consistently drawn to three key areas in possible need of focus.
In today's post I will address the first key area. Parts II and III covering the second two key areas will follow.
1. We need a strong, biblical understanding of the power and purpose of prayer. Nothing will happen without this foundation. 
My first priority is prayer. To this end, my first message series has dealt with prayer. Together we have discovered that God loves to give good gifts but God loves, even more, giving the gift of the Holy Spirit. By way of the Holy Spirit our joy is made complete when we first seek His will and then trust Him to give us only His best. Even in times of suffering and sorrow, we trust the Refiner’s Fire to make us more Christ-like.
An easy and inaccurate next statement would be, “so, we need to beef up our prayer ministry.”
I don’t say “we need to beef up,” because I see in Richland Nazarene a people who understand biblical prayer, love to pray, have prayed great prayers for great things, and are now searching for a new passion and a new vision to lift up to our Heavenly Father.  
Longer, beefier prayers might not be needed as much as more church-wide, all-inclusive, hyper-focused prayers consistently zeroed in a list of 4 or 5 individuals in our lives who need Jesus. In the unity of the Spirit, our prayers can then be brought to bear on the classes, groups, ministries, and events of His Bride (Richland Nazarene) to empower, guide, and assist you in reaching your friends who don’t know Jesus. That’s why Richland Nazarene exists.
Nor do I say, “prayer ministry” as that would imply prayer is just one of several ministries from which to choose to participate. Somewhat like having an “outreach” ministry or program in the church. Outreach is the reason the church exists. It isn’t an optional “add-on” ministry or program. Outreach isn’t a file in a folder called church; it’s the folder!
In the same way, prayer is the life-blood of the church that always reaches out. It can’t help it. Prayer compels and fuels it. If a lost-centric prayer life doesn’t permeate every part of the church, the church will not reach out and it will die. Prayer is not a supplement or “healthy choice.”  It's the only choice.  Spoiler Alert: If prayer isn’t your only choice now, it will be after reading Part III of this series! 
Next Two Posts…
Part II. We need to “clean house” by… 
       a. addressing programming complexity/confusion in order to clarify spiritual Next Steps
       b. providing strategic, graduated purpose for each spiritual Next Step
       c. re-envisioning or re-imagining low impact/competing programs
Part III. We need to challenge/leverage every ministry, class, or group towards outreach/evangelism by discovering the power of Cheap, Easy & Fun, and Repeatable, Relational, & Joinable.

Spiritual Discipline: Reading & Studying God's Word - Pastor Andrew Hickman - August 28, 2018

      I am a part of a discussion group on Facebook called “Grace Habits: Spiritual Disciplines for
Ordinary People”. The purpose of this is to be a safe place to discuss one’s personal walk with
Christ with fellow Christ followers on topics centered on spiritual disciplines. I have been greatly encouraged by this group lately because of its charitable discussion around topics in Christianity that could easily become heated debates. I was challenged by one of the questions another pastor posted for discussion a few days ago. The question was this, “On a scale of 1-10, how well do you know the Bible? How do you think you could get to know it better?” Now, I feel like I have a pretty good knowledge of the Bible, but as I pondered the question, it hit me that I could know it so much better. That realization led me to challenge myself to read and study the Bible more and more.
        CONFESSION ALERT: I hate reading; I have always hated to read. I struggle sitting down to read anything, and it does not necessarily come from a lack of desire. I’ve always wanted to be able to be a reader, but it’s more of a frustration for me because I’m a very slow reader and my brain doesn’t process written words very fast either. My learning style is heavily kinesthetic, which means I learn through physical experiences rather than audible and visual learning styles. Anyhow, I challenged myself to take it slow at first to try and get a better grasp and understanding of what God is trying to teach me through His Word. So, I’ve started reading a chapter a day of the Bible, and my challenge was to read for understanding not reading for quantity; which for me means that sometimes I have to re-read portions or even the whole chapter in order to grasp what is being taught through the Scriptures.
        All of this is coming on the heels of something else I read in a book last week (yes, even though I hate reading, I am struggling my way very slowly through the book “Radical” by David Platt). In my reading Platt discusses how Christians all over the world who live in countries where owning a Bible is against the law, will study scriptures in house meetings hours upon hours at a time because they long for understanding and memorizing God’s Word. God was challenging me to read and study His Word with a renewed passion because I can do it freely without persecution yet I struggle to give God’s Word 10 minutes of my day. Yet persecuted Christians are literally risking their lives to read the Bible in other parts of the world.

I write all of this to ask you to take your “spiritual pulse” and ask yourself the following
questions:

  • On a scale of 1-10, how well do you know the Bible?
  • How do you think you could get to know it better?
  • What are you willing to do to improve your spiritual discipline of reading and studying the
  • Bible?

In Christ,
- Pastor Andrew

Ministering to God - Pastor Bri Hickman - August 21, 2018

               I started reading a book this weekend written by Zach Neese, called “How to Worship A King – Prepare Your Heart. Prepare Your World. Prepare The Way.” This book is FILLED with nuggets of wisdom, and parts of the book cause me to stop and reread what I just read because it is either so good, accurate, or thought provoking. One of those moments was on the topic of what our job is as sons and daughters of the King. Our job is to Worship the King. Our job is to minister to God, not to ourselves. The hard part is that the church in the last 100 years has made worship about ourselves. We look for the emotional high, the personal tastes we have to what worship looks like or sounds like, or even looking for our own personal needs being met through worship and church. According to Scripture, and this book, that is wrong and not what Worship is about.  The book states:

We have made worship about us, our preferences, our tastes, our comforts, our opinions, ministering to our needs, and coddling our self-centered natures. When we make worship ABOUT us, what we communicate to God is that worship is FOR us. When worship is for us, we become the object of worship, little gods in our own hearts. We become idolaters. Let’s make this clear as a cloudless morning: WORSHIP IS NOT FOR US. Worship is for God. It is ministry for His pleasure, His heart, His opinion, His tastes, and His desires. It was never meant for the entertainment of man. It is God’s.
— Zach Neese, p.16

                Wow! Just wow. I had to reread this about 10 times to fully grasp all the goodness and truth that is in this. Deuteronomy 10:8 informs us that the Levites are to stand before the Lord to serve Him. To serve him in this aspect, the Hebrew word Latreuo is used, which means “to minister to God”.  This part of worship, serving God and ministering to God gets to the very essence of what worship is for us as Sons and Daughters of the King. There is not a single word for worship in the Bible, Greek or Hebrew, that includes the idea of ministry to mankind. Worship is simply not for us. It is for God. This can be a hard thing to grasp, when we are so accustomed to the worldviews of music being for our own pleasure. This can also be hard when we are so used to getting our own way with things or finding fault in things that we are a part of because it doesn’t appeal to us. However, we are called to worship the King. This isn’t just my calling, but it is a calling for all people. We are to worship God and minister to Him with everything we have and everything we are. Worship is so much more than music, but it is a way of life that we are called to live that ministers to and worships God.

                A few questions I want to ask you as I ask myself these questions are:

1. What would happen to our lives if we began to focus EVERY aspect and decision on ministering to God?

2. How would our churches change if we cared more about ministering to God rather than ministering to ourselves?

3. How would the world respond if they saw us ministering to God instead of focusing on ourselves?

Let me know your thoughts on this over the next couple of weeks! I would love to chat with you about this!

In Christ,
- Pastor Bri

Winnie-the-Pooh & The Great Commission - Pastor Lisa Roberson - August 14, 2018

Winnie-the-Pooh, beloved childhood friend or dispenser of wisdom?  You be the judge.  Many people poo-poo Pooh as just another piece of childhood.  The 100 Acre Wood is simply a place to travel through on your away to adulthood, and yet I wonder if there isn’t more to the story if we are open to really hearing the ramblings of a willy, nilly, silly old stuffed with fluff bear. 
Some of my favorite Pooh-isms are:  
 
Piglet: “How do you spell ‘love’?”  Pooh: “You don’t spell it…you feel it.”
 
“You’re braver than you believe and stronger and smarter than you think.”
 
“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”
 
          One of the best Pooh-isms is when he paraphrases Jesus and the Great Commission, “You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”  Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…”  Matthew 28:19a.  Pooh is echoing Jesus and the call to “go out”.  But going out is risky.  It is safer behind our walls, we know what to expect…we know who to expect.  Inside our walls we are not stretched or uncomfortable, we have adapted to our surroundings and are content.  Jesus, with the Great Commission is calling us out of the forest, to seek others, to share with them the Good News.  What does it look like to “Therefore go…”?  I can’t answer that for you, but I know how you can find out and it begins with prayer, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Asking the Holy One to show us our communication strengths and how best to use them for the Kingdom.  We begin with an open heart, to be receptive to those God would chose to put in our path.  We begin with the understanding Jesus came to seek and save the lost.  There is a meme floating around face book, it provides balance between ‘a reminder’ and ‘a conviction’, it reads, “you will never look into the eyes of someone Jesus doesn’t love.”
          This week I encourage you to begin coming out of your ‘forest’ and lean into the Great Commission.  Begin earnestly asking in prayer where do we go as a church body and where do I go as an individual to be outside the church walls and outside our/my comfort zones.  How can we, how can I, share the Good News.          

Adapt or Die - Pastor Jerry Carter - August 8, 2018

Being the follow up to Janine Metcalf’s ministry and then Bob Luhn’s interim period has been both humbling and challenging. So many great ministries and programs were started by folks like Janine and Bob, and others before them, but the challenge now before us is what to keep when God might want to do a new thing.
New things don’t necessarily mean dumping old things. They became old things because they worked long enough to get old. The real issue is determining which aspects of the old programs still work and which parts need to go? In other words, the message must remain unchanged while our methods need constant updates to keep up with a rapidly changing mission field, church personnel, and tools at our disposal.
When something new is introduced, like say, a new pastor, everything else must adjust to the new reality. Jesus said that to put new wine (a new pastor) into old wineskins (this is the way we’ve always done it or we tried that and it didn’t work) would result in losing both the wineskins and the wine when the old skins inevitably burst open. (Matt 9:17, Mk 2:22).
The painful part in all this, is that different people will come to different conclusions as to what is essential and what is negotiable. And, as we make adjustments and changes, people will leave upset and hurt. Organizationally speaking, this is inevitable and not, necessarily or exclusively, a bad thing. People leaving and programs ending or changing make room for new ideas and new people.
At this point, we have two choices.
We can do again, what we have always done before. We can go into our bag of tricks and bring out our best programs of the past. We can hope and pray this time it will work.
Andy Stanley summed up the results of this choice; “Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.” Albert Einstein was even more blunt; “The definition of insanity is to do the same thing again and again and expect different results.”
Or, we can start a new adventure.
Your answer lies with this question: Are you at that point in which the pain of not changing is greater than the pain of change. If so, are you prepared to purchase new wine skins by sacrificing your favorite ministry or program (old wine skins) for an unknown future adventure? Let me know the next time you see me.