Archive for the ‘Bethany North’ Category


Un-sexy churches, the story of Bethany North, and the God of small armies

In Bethany North,God's great love,Leadership,The Church on October 10, 2013 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

 Go to the nearest smallest church and commit yourself to being there for 6 months. If it doesn’t work out, find somewhere else. But don’t look for programs, don’t look for entertainment, and don’t look for a great preacher. A Christian congregation is not a glamorous place, not a romantic place. That’s what I always told people. If people were leaving my congregation to go to another place of work, I’d say, “The smallest church, the closest church, and stay there for 6 months.” Sometimes it doesn’t work. Some pastors are just incompetent. And some are flat out bad. So I don’t think that’s the answer to everything, but it’s a better place to start than going to the one with all the programs, the glitz, all that stuff.”

The words above were spoken by pastor and author (of the Message fame) Eugene Peterson.  Truer words have not been spoken, “A Christian congregation is not a glamorous place.”  Often times, the local church isn’t very sexy or exciting, or if it is for a while, it quickly fades.  For Bethany North, we now are turning three years old.  And the rite of passage makes me think back on what we’ve done.  Where we’ve been.  And where we’re going.

We started here in late September 2010- with 110 people and 55 kids.  We had hoped for 30 kids so lets just say from day 1, we’ve seen an abundance of God’s provision through the joy of children.  We stayed in the Richmond Highlands gym for 6 months and found another, larger spot.  We moved into the larger digs at Spartan Gym unsure of next steps- sure of only this one.

Now as we progress, we face new challenges.  How do we remain joyful in our volunteerism?  How do we continue to spread the news that there is a church in Shoreline built on making the invisible God visible?  How do we continue to grow based on the principle that the church is a people and not a building?  How do we deliver on the promise that as we connect and serve we will make Jesus known?  How can we inspire others with the truth that as we participate in the local church and the service in our community, God can continue to transform us?  These are the questions that gnaw at me as the leader of Bethany North.  But though questions persist, make no doubt about it; God is doing wonderful things in and among us.

And the truth, church, is that our best days are ahead.  In the book of Judges, God had raised up a leader named Gideon.  Gideon was facing an enemy army, and after being convinced God was calling him, Gideon exhibited great leadership.  He convinced others.  He cast vision.   He built something powerful.  He recruited an army of thousands to lead Israel into victory over the Midianites, a rival people group threatening Israel’s survival.  The army was 22,000 strong.  It was an army up to the task of facing the Midianites in battle.

But then God did something mind-blowing- He told Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me” (Judges 7:2).  Then the army of 22,000 became 10,000.  Then God separated them further down to 300 men.  God took Gideon’s powerful group of 22,000 and made it His own powerful number of 300.

What?  God wants us to win battles- but do it with smaller armies?  Do it undermanned?  Yes- the God of the bible is a God of small armies.  For real power comes from God’s strength and provision and not merely by growing things on our own.  When we build powerful teams and do powerful things, we’re often mindful of our own accomplishments and not on the provision of God.  But when we’re amazed and surprised that God has taken our humble efforts and blessed them abundantly?  Well, we’re able to be thankful.  We’re able to be humble.  We’re able to be mindful that our strength is in the Lord, not ourselves.

This is good news to me today, and for the last few weeks.  This little nugget is giving me hope.  Often times I’m mindful of feeling overmatched and overwhelmed and I’m aware there is much to do that I’m simply not powerful enough.  And yet, I believe in a God who is more powerful than my own efforts.  So, I’m clinging to the God of Gideon, the same God who came and took flesh as Jesus Christ- who took the incarnational, small army approach to transform the people that followed Him instead setting up an earthly Kingdom or regime.  The God of Gideon, this small army God, repeatedly used broken people to profess that God was alive and well and absolutely determined on redeeming this world.

This is my prayer this week: 
“God, will take my small army and make it powerful for You?
God- we confess- there is much about the future for Bethany North
we can’t figure out.
But we know You can.
Lead us we pray.
We are a small army.
We are broken people.
And we give You thanks for all the goodness and growth
and health we’ve experienced so far.
Its clearly been from Your strength and not our own.
Thank you God- You have been so good to us.”



Do you love me?

In Bethany North,God's calling,God's great love,Jesus on May 1, 2013 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

do you love me?

God loves each of us,
as if there were only one of us.

~ Augustine

Lately I’ve been haunted by this question from Jesus in the gospels:  “Do you love me?”  At the time, Jesus was speaking to Peter.  Jesus had already died a horrific death and come back to life.  Jesus was appearing to his disciples along the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  He gave them the greatest fishing tip in the history of humankind “Try the other side of the boat!”  And they do it- and they almost break their net the fish are so numerous.  And then Jesus, being the Son of God, made them breakfast.  And over breakfast, with a fire probably crackling at their feet, their bellies full of fresh cooked fish and bread, turns to Peter and asked the fateful question:  “Do you love me?”

For Jesus, He didn’t couch the question with first declaring His own love for the disciples.  They already knew He loved them.  They saw Him wash their feet.  They saw Him hanging on a cross.  They saw Him come alive and serve them breakfast.  They saw the look of love on His face.  Once they knew of Jesus love for them, their identity as beloved was forged.  Nothing could shake their knowledge that Jesus loved them.

I’ve been thinking of God’s love lately.  Heather asked me the other day, “What are your favorite verses on God’s love?”  And I’m embarrassed to say this, but my mind went blank________________________________.   God’s love?  Hmm….let me think about that.  I can tell you all about sin and the wages and the death that resulted from Romans 1/3/6.  I can tell you my personal favorite anchor verse from James 4:8 “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”  I can remind you from Genesis we’re made in the image of God, I can quote you pithy thoughts of wisdom from Proverbs and remind you of Moses and the great journey of Israel in Exodus.  There are of course the love verses from 1 Corinthians (“Love is patient and kind”) and 1 John (“we love because God first loved us”) but these mostly remind me of wedding ceremonies.  What verses remind me daily of God’s love?  Of His unconditional embrace?  Of His absolute delight in me?

How do I remember that no matter what I do, God already loves me?  How do I remind myself when I so easily forget that before anything else, I am already God’s beloved son?  Hmmm.  Truth is, I need more reminders that God loves me.  I need to write those verses on cards and stare at them each day.

Lately my oldest daughter’s nightly prayers have turned towards forgiveness.  She prays for her to be forgiven of all the bad things she has done.  Every-single-night.  After she prays, I then pray for her- out loud- “God, may my daughter know every night that you love her.  That You accept her.  That she is so good in Your eyes.”  And then I remind my daughter- God’s love is like my love- only way, way better.  I want my kids to KNOW they are loved by God and loved by their dad.   I think on my spiritual pursuits and often I’m running/clinging/pursuing Jesus and working so hard to do the things that I know God wants me to be about.  But what about my heart?

I was talking with a friend at church last month and he told me that he was struggling.  “What’s up?” I asked.
“I’m not sure why, but my heart isn’t feeling God at all.  Its all numb and void.”

I ran into this same guy Sunday after the church service.  “God answered my prayers!” he said.  “I’m feeling God’s love again.”

“Wow, that’s great,” I said.  “That means He’s answered my prayers too.  I’ve been praying for your heart.”

The truth is, we all need to reminded that God loves us.  Love does.  Love is.  Love wins.  We are good in God’s eyes.  We are loved.  Not because we do for others.  But because He first loved us.

Here are some great reminders this week that YOU are loved by God Himself. 

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.   Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
– 1 John 4:10-12

 “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
– Ephesians 2:4-5

“The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.”
– Zephaniah 3:17

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
– 1 John 4:7-8

“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
-Psalm 86:15

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
-Galatians 2:20

“ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
-1 Peter 5:6-7

May you feel the weight of God’s love today.  It covers you.  Before you’ve done a single thing. God loves you.  Period.  What reminds you of God’s great love?


Eat my what?

In Bethany North,God's calling,Jesus,Struggles with faith on March 14, 2013 by scottsund Tagged: , , ,

Have you seen this video?  It’s a little boy getting cochlear implants and hearing his mother’s voice for the first time.  Think about that.  Your mother’s voice for the first time.  Unless you had never heard your mother’s voice- you wouldn’t understand.

We’ve been talking about Jesus lately at church…I know, I know…crazy right?  But think about this.:  Jesus says “I am the light of the world.”  That is only good news if you had no light or you had never seen.  Jesus says “I am the bread of life” and that is only good news if you were hungry.  It got me thinking- what do we actually need Jesus for?  And how does Jesus help a community that doesn’t need Him?  Unless we recognize our brokenness and low places- we’ll never need a Savior.  Early in Jesus ministry He went home to continue to heal people and do some of the miracles He had been performing in other places.  But they didn’t need Him- they didn’t recognize Him as anything other than “Mary and Joseph’s boy.”  And then the scriptures tell us in Luke 4: Jesus left.  Because if a community doesn’t need Him, Jesus takes His presence elsewhere.

I don’t know about you- but I’ve been especially aware lately that I need a savior.  Not in a religious, pastor type way.  But in a broken, “I’m not quite good enough” type way.  No, I can’t do life very good on my own.  I need help often to cling to the hope in this broken world.  To cling to peace in my own interior life that can feel such anguish and stress.  Yes I’m the broken.  I’m the deaf.  I’m the poor in spirit.  I’m the hungry.

bread of life wonderbreadThis last Sunday we took a look at this weird passage in John 6 where Jesus says, “I am the bread of life” and then encourages His followers to “Eat my flesh and drink My blood”.  You can find the passage here.  To be sure, it’s a hard passage to understand.  Imagine hearing this message from Jesus.  Eat flesh.  Drink blood.  Bread of life.  What does it mean?  And better yet, who can do it???  Who can possibly follow the guidelines of this new brand of religion?  This man Jesus must be crazy!   How can I possibly do everything right to follow Him?

The genius here on Jesus part is simply this:  I can’t.  I can’t do it.  I can’t eat the flesh and drink the blood.  Jesus moves from Law “do these things and all will be ok” to a purely impractical statement.  Why???  Why does Jesus sometimes talk like this?  Because you can’t do it on your own!  We need Jesus to enter into the best life possible.

In this passage Jesus had just taken 5 fish and 2 loaves of bread and in a miracle, He fed literally thousands of people.  How does this work?  Because Jesus ushers in a new economy where 5 fish + 2 loaves= ENOUGH.  God’s economy doesn’t make sense to me.  Its not balanced budget- it’s the radical grace of God.  This doesn’t make sense to me and so I cling to my radical self-sufficiency.  I doubt that Jesus can take the 5 fish and 2 loaves of my spiritual life and weave it into something beautiful.  So I feel slow to trust Him.  And then I finally realize- my “economy” that makes such logical sense – really isn’t working for me.  Trusting myself and my own ends leads me to places of feeling bankrupt.  And in these places I yell out to God: ‘I can’t do this!”  I cry out and I fail and then I cling to Him.  Perhaps this is what Jesus means- He is the bread of life.  Because on my own I just always feel hungry.  But when I’m following Jesus I have a wholeness, a fullness, not of my own strength but of His.

I’ll be preaching about this need for Jesus a bit this Sunday at Bethany North at 9:15 and 11- if you’re in town you should stop by.  Maybe we could do this journey together.


We are what we do

In Bethany North,Christian Ethics,Jesus,Serve on June 21, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: , , , ,

“We are what we repeatedly do.” -Aristotle

Not sure if you saw the online article trending late last week with the news flash that faith in God is decreasing amongst millenials.  Though 68% of young people still say they believe in God, that number is down 15% in just the last few years.  This is a problem.

As I was thinking about this, I read a good article about Mat Kearney.  Need a recommendation on a great singer songwriter?  Check out Kearney here.  Kearney is an interesting guy because he is an amazing songwriter, a guy who is popular on a couple different musical platforms, and he is also a Christ follower.  How did this happen?  This article explains his journey a bit, but he said the genesis of his faith came when he was exposed to the HOPE of Christianity.  It was the good news of Jesus that attracted him.

“It was sort of the Sodom and Gomorra of the college world,” he jokes. “I was your typical college student. We’re told we should be chasing sex and intoxication. The more I was diving into that, the more it was leaving me with a sense of despair. I just found it very unfulfilling.”  Kearney was intrigued by the message of hope and redemption he learned about in a college course on the Bible. “The more I studied the ideas, the more it resonated with me,” he says. “My spirituality and faith is a huge part of how I live my life.”

Hope, good news, redemption, fulfillment.  These are the promises that attract a generation that is swiftly moving away from faith.  Christ is about bringing us into union with Himself.  But regretfully that’s not always the story we’ve been telling as a church.  Kearney talks about the church’s problems here: “I’m sorry the church has become a lobbyist group for greed and things that have nothing to do with the character of Christ,” he says. “He chose to love the unlovable, the needy and the sick and the orphaned.”

Kearney said he doesn’t want to preach- but wants to be a great songwriter.  This is a different blog post, but I love his perspective. Lord knows the world has too many preachers (hmm), we need more musicians, fishermen, or teachers, or whatever God has given you to do well.  When we live out our calling, we’re serving God well. Kearney says, “I think my faith has less to do with political aspiration and more to do with the fact that God seeks man out of a desire for a loving relationship.  That’s the issue we should be talking about in Christianity.”

What can I can say to that?  Yup.  More about God seeking humans.  Yup.  More about God’s desire for a loving relationship.  Yup.  More about the unlovable, the needy, the orphaned.  Yup.

Problem is…the problem isn’t always out there…with other Christians.  It often starts right here– with me.  Even as I type these words, the magnifying glass goes to my own practices.  How have I served the homeless lately?  How have I loved the orphan lately?  I’ll confess…I need a tune up on my Jesus practices.  Jesus said it clearly, if you want to follow than there are tangible and practical things to do: visit orphans, serve the hungry, care for others.  It isn’t theological, it’s a very practical “to do” list. Simply put- you are what you do.  Not what you say believe.  What you actually do is what counts.

That’s why at the church I lead, we will start collecting food again in July for Hopelink.  I’ll be a part of that.  Not because I’m holier than someone else, but because I realize I must take steps in my daily life that reflect my Christian values.  As small as a food drive is, or a single day serving at Jacobs Well, or a night spent visiting seniors at Arden Center, or my participation in one of our Spilling Hope 365 events…these are all small tiny steps…but each small tiny steps teaches me a little bit about what Jesus wants me to be about.

As a church, we’ve done some great things, and we continue to do good things.  And we’ve got sound orthodoxy- the things we belief.  But we should be careful that our orthodoxy never outshines our orthopraxy.  Orthopraxy literally means correct action.  The things we need to be doing are more important than the things we think about.  Perhaps as we step into this calling, more young people will feel encouraged to take a fresh look at the faith they have moved away from.  This truly is our calling- to be bearers of the good news.  We’ve got some work to do.


Something in the water

In Bethany North,Practicing Solitude,The Church,The Journey on June 13, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: ,

Greetings friends- sorry for the delay- In the last week I left Seattle to set up the fishing business on the Inside Passage of Canada that I’ve helped manage for the last 8 years.  With 3:30am start times and hours lasting long into the evening, the blog has suffered a bit.  I promise to be better about blogging a few times a week throughout the summer.  As taxing as the long hours are when we’re up here running the fishing lodge, there is a beauty and clarity and simplicity to life up here that is quite refreshing and creativity flows.  I’m hoping the blog bears some of that fruit this summer.

When I left Seattle 8 days ago, we had just finished our second annual beach baptism.  This is quickly becoming a tradition at the church I pastor, where early in the summer we head down to Richmond Beach Saltwater Park after church and have a baptism in Puget Sound.  Over 100 people gathered last Sunday in a semi-circle at the water’s edge of the Sound, to witness and celebrate the baptisms of 3 Bethany North attenders.  Each person being baptized stepped up and shared their “anchor” verse, that favorite verse of the bible that you can always return to time and time again no matter what the circumstances, to be reassured of God’s love and acceptance of them.  After sharing their verse, we moved into the frigid waters of the Sound and asked two simple questions:
1.  Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?
2. Is it your intention to follow Him all of your days?

With their resounding “yes” still hanging in the air, worship director Ben Koole and myself dunked each one of them.  As they came out of water, they were celebrating with us that sacred promise of baptism that we are dead to sin, alive with Christ.  It was powerful, both for those being baptized and for the church community that had gathered to celebrate together.  Baptism is such a wonderful signifier that though we say “yes” to Christ, He has loved and created us first.  And that means baptism is a free gift, the indwelling of the spirit, and we merely get to partake in the gift.

I woke the next morning at 2:30 and after a quick shower was on the road for my work at the fishing business.  By noon I was in Canada putting boats in the water, bound for the powerful waters of Northwestern Vancouver Island.  We had arranged  a few days fishing on the open ocean with some of our staff that volunteer each year to prepare the lodge for the start of the season.  We launched boats in the tiny town of Coal Harbour and then ran west through Quatsino Sound bound for Winter Harbour.  We hit the dock of the old cannery we were staying in by 4 pm and after quickly unpacking the boats, a few of us went fishing behind.  We trolled behind Kains Island, with a 4 foot swell surging on the rocks below one of the last manned lighthouses on the coast of BC.  The sun was shining, the rods trolled anxiously for the first bite, and the grandeur of nature was everywhere.  How strange it was, to be trolling for salmon without another boat within miles after having been at the baptism ceremony just 24 hours before.  And then it hit me: Fishing is much like the Christian Faith.  And here’s how…

1.There is power in the water:
Normally most of our fishing happens on the tranquil waters of the Inside Passage that experiences virtually no ocean swell and little wind disturbance.  But on this day, off the western coast of Van Isle near Kains Island, the water was surging and rolling and moving beyond belief.  The next day we almost couldn’t get out fishing with seas coming up to almost 12 feet by mid morning.  When you fish on the open water, you are aware of the infinite power of water.  In fact, 4 anglers had died not far from Kains Island just last summer when their boat flipped.  Water is powerful.  And when I thought back on the baptism service, and the look on the face of each person as they came up from Puget Sound, it was also true- there is real power in the washing water of baptism.  When we follow Christ, we are saying there is a real power to the spiritual life that we cannot control or govern but we submit to it.  The water, symbolizing the new life of Christ, washes over everything and makes all things new.  There is real power in the water of the spirit.
2. Change is constant: 

On the coast of BC, if you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes and it will change.  When you are out fishing, you literally are watching weather patterns that are still 20 or 30 miles out come at you and you can go from sunny and 60 to rainy and 48 inside of an hour.  Things are always changing.  The tide is always either rising or falling and wind is increasing or abating.  Literally, change is everywhere.  That is one of the things I love about fishing.
Why is it as a Christian church that we have sworn off change?  Why are we so scared of reacting in new ways to God’s revelation?  People are so scared to change how we have always done things as Christians, how we have always taught things, how we have always read things.  Isn’t the Spirit of God alive?  Isn’t Jesus called the Living Word?  Truthfully, some want to put the Christian faith into a museum or academic library.  I say lets make it more like fishing.  Just as in baptism we submit to the spirit and say that God is working here in strange and powerful ways that we do not understand, we are bound to follow.  I want my faith to be like that- just like the changing currents of the ocean.  Though the tides are always moving, they follow the Moon, they don’t change alone.  There is a rhythm and beauty to their change- it isn’t chaos.  If Christ is our “moon”- will we be bold enough to follow?

3. This has to be fun:
Though the seas were rough, and fishing was unpredictable, we had a great 2 days out fishing.  I love to fish…and therefore I go fishing.  Sounds simple right?  I continue to seek out opportunities to fish because it is so life giving, it makes me laugh out loud when a huge salmon is screaming out line on my reel.  On the first full day of our fishing, my buddy Geoff and I limited out on salmon, halibut, ling cod and yellow eye rockfish- in 1 day!  It was hilarious!

Is our faith in God fun anymore?  Does it make us laugh out loud at things?  Does it make us feel joyful?  Do we long to gather for worship?  Do we count the days till the next time we get to spend time with God in a meaningful way?  Faith in God is meant to be fun and lifegiving and enriching and something that we want to do.  Not a benign set of rules or dogmatic principles to follow.  A joyful dance with the creator of the universe.  Baptism, and fishing, both testify to the fact that God is at work in the world.  Our job is to joyfully follow.


Why Go to Church #2

In Bethany North,The Church on April 12, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

I was just coming off the glow of Easter on Monday when I happened by the cover of Newsweek magazine with this as its cover:  “Forget the Church- Follow Jesus” by Andrew Sullivan.

Always one to cash in on the Easter/Christmas magazine bump if they put a Christian theme/controversy on the front page, the left leaning Newsweek didn’t miss a beat.  Interestingly enough Newsweek didn’t ask a scholar or even a leading voice in one of the theological debates now roiling….instead they put the opinion piece of a progressive social commenter and political activist: Andrew Sullivan.

You should read the piece, found here, when you have a chance.  It’s a good article.  An interesting take on the Jesus behind the Christian movement, as evidenced by Thomas Jefferson’s ill fated “Jesus only” bible at the time this country was founded or Francis of Assisi’s breakaway from the conventional Catholic faith to begin his Franciscan aesthetic way.  I’m not arguing with Sullivan for a # of reasons.

#1 If I proceed to punch holes in his argument, which basically indicts Christians of fighting all the wrong wars and thus missing out on the real Jesus, I’m fueling his actual argument…it’s a classic double bind.

#2 There is much that Sullivan says that I actually agree with

#3  I believe as Christians we should be known more for what we stand FOR than what we rail against.  So a guy gets Jesus on the cover of Newsweek?  This is a net win for Christ, right?  Why argue with him?

Sullivan’s perspective is fresh and I too think we’ve missed out on the authentic life of Jesus as we protect the conventions around the Christian faith.  However, a deep flaw in Sullivan’s article is one worth noting and actually reminded me of my last post about “Why Go To Church.”  If I grab my scissors and start cutting, who is really my God?  Is it Jesus I seek to know.. or my own beliefs, biases, prejudices and shortcomings?  If I go to Jesus and seek the parts that make sense to me, I’m reinforcing my own pride and sense of GOD in myself instead of being remade and reformed and renewed by Him.

Have we lost sight of Jesus?  Yes in many ways the Christian church gives Jesus about the same “mic time” as other political and theological points and counterpoints.  This isn’t right.   Brian McLaren wrote about this a bit in his theologically challenged A New Kind of Christianity.  The graph to the right is hard to read but you get the idea…McLaren argued (rightly) that the church doesn’t always look directly at Jesus, who the writer of Hebrews tells us should be the “author and perfecter” of our faith.  Instead McLaren argues, the church has been a series of filters or distillations of Jesus…from Jesus to Paul to Augustine to Aquinas, etc.  Each century we build theology and doctrine based on the chronological progression of the church, instead of stripping off the dogma and pomp and circumstance and returning to Jesus.   McLaren is right about that, but McLaren seeks to rock the boat so much that eventually he loses much Christian substance.  As one of my theology professors once said, “Trying to nail down McLaren to what truth actually is would be like trying to nail a jelly fish onto a wall.  It is impossible.”

So get back to Jesus, skip the church and the dogma, and we’re all set, right?  Wrong.  Like Jefferson with his pair of scissors, if we reduce Christ’s message to a “me and Jesus” theme we actually miss Christ’s teaching on the value of community and togetherness.  “Where two or more are gathered,” Jesus says, “There I am with you.”  Why?  Because alone we don’t have the strength of others, we don’t have the accountability, we don’t have the resources, we don’t have vulnerability and confession.  No- Jesus wants us to do life together.  He wants us to do faith together.  And though the church is flawed (see my last post), we are called to gather and learn from one another and seek Jesus….together.

Doesn’t matter which church, as long as it is a spirit filled Christian church.  Though the church is deeply flawed, I don’t know a single Christian living a vibrant and overflowing Christian life that isn’t involved in some kind of faith community.  Maybe you do but I would guess it is a rarity.  We need one another.  The call to Christ is a call to community.  So step out, step in somewhere, be prepared for a bunch of inadequate and fallen people.  But in each other’s fallenness in your local church, in time you will see Jesus in one another.  Keep showing up…its worth it.


Why go to church?

In Bethany North,The Church on April 7, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

“Just because a 5th grade orchestra butchers Beethoven’s 9th symphony doesn’t mean that Beethoven isn’t a genius and that someone, somewhere might actually be able to play his score beautifully and do him justice.”

Tomorrow we gather in churches around the world for Easter.  People will don their Easter suits, children will pull out their Easter bonnets with chocolate egg induced joy still pulsing through their veins, and the tradition of Easter will begin.  For many people, church is something they do twice a year, on Christmas and Easter, as a way of gathering with their family or paying respect to a tradition.  But though our churches will flood with people tomorrow, many people have already given up on the church.  Why?  Often for good reason.

The church, either locally or globally, has let them down.  The church promised an easier road or a safer salvation and when life proved too difficult or treacherous or challenging, the way of the church proved false.  Or perhaps the church, locally or globally, became a place of judgment or condemnation or exclusion rather than of joy and embrace and togetherness.  Or the church just lots its meaning, becoming a place of tradition and rhetoric and stuffy rules, more like the King County Library than a rock concert, and when the life left the building people mentally or physically checked out.  To you, those disenfranchised or disappointed with church, let me tell you, you are not alone.

There is a tremendous article floating the web now called “Why I Quit the Church”- it’s worth a read.  The writer, a pastor’s kid, left the church because all he saw was condemnation and hatred instead of transformation and hope.

Call me crazy, but I still believe in the church.  I still believe that we can gather as broken people made whole by Christ’s great love, which we celebrated with his sacrifice at Good Friday services.  I still believe that gathering together makes us stronger, gives us a footing in a shifting-sands world, and allows us to be known by other seekers.  The writer of the article quotes the old adage, “not all who wander are lost.”  The church, when it is at its finest, is a collection of people who are still wandering, still journeying, still exploring what it means to be a Christ follower.  The church isn’t a collection of people without problems or without challenges, but rather imbued with the saving work of Jesus Christ in their back pocket, we get another chance to love others, to serve others, and to make Jesus known.

I hope you go to church tomorrow for Easter, and that you can find a local body of worship that fits your own worship and liturgical tastes and desires.  I hope this body is a people gathered in the name of Jesus to proclaim His love and forgiveness and that collectively, the body you worship with is a group marked by His joy and transformation.  Not sure about the church anymore?  Just because our local churches often sound like 5th grade orchestras, please know that God has written a beautiful symphony to this life.  Seek Him, and find a place where you can go and get good teaching and meet other pilgrims on the journey.

And if you’re in North King or South Snohomish County tomorrow, we’d love to see you at Bethany North.  We worship at 10…join us for Easter.  And perhaps come back the next week so we can start getting to know each other.