Posts Tagged ‘Bethany North’

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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Go outside and see it for yourself

In Bethany North,The Journey on July 1, 2011 by scottsund Tagged: , , ,

This last Sunday was an exciting day in a lot of ways. I woke up early before the house full of children and visitors could stir. I opened up my bible and read out of both Matthew (on which I would be preaching later in the day) and after my first cup of coffee, switched to the book of Psalms.  I prayed and sat in the quiet house waiting for life to begin.

At 7:00am I headed to the Spartan Gym where Bethany North meets and dropped off supplies for that day’s service and touched base with our key volunteers.  From there I headed down to the Greenlake campus to pray with the other pastors and prepare for the 9am service.  I preached on Matthew 5 (The Beatitudes) and right after the service headed back up to Bethany North to catch the end of that worship service.  At the conclusion of Bethany North’s worship service I hung out with people from the church and ran back home to grab the family.

Our family cruised down to the Bethany North baptism and barbeque at the Richmond Beach Saltwater Park.  I expected 20 or 30 or 40 people but was shocked to see over 100 people gathered together for lunch.  People talked and laughed and ate and connected.  After an hour, we gathered by Puget Sound and discussed baptism and prayed for my friend Chad.  We discussed the gift of God’s grace and how baptism was God’s gift of washing over us and making us clean.  And then I baptized Chad in the Holy Spirit.  As he came up from the frigid Puget Sound waters, Chad was marked as a new creation in Christ.  His wife cried.  Chad couldn’t speak.  And I almost lost it too.  It was beautiful.

After another hour of hanging out in the sun we headed home for some cul-de-sac playtime with the kids of wiffleball and trampoline time with all the kids.  At 5pm we were back to Greenlake to preach at the 6pm service and Heather and I left the kids home with the grandparents (in town for a trip to Sund’s Lodge) and we got to sing together and take communion together.  It was fantastic.

And the next morning we were on a floatplane back to the place where I work in the summer at a fishing lodge in British Columbia.  As the staff of 13 prepared for the incoming guests this week, we had a visitor from a gray whale who swam right next to our dock.  We were literally standing on boats tied to the dock looking down at a 45 foot long whale swimming by.  The contrast of the silent, majestic beauty of a whale and my day full of speaking about God on Sunday hit me like a hammer.  As much as we speak about God, we should also fill our lives with letting people see God at work in the world with their own eyes.  For all my words fall awkward and limp in the presence of God’s active work in nature.

I love the visual of John the Baptist in Matthew 11, John has gone from baptizing the Son of God earlier in the book of Matthew to now being imprisoned.  And his current situation of frustration and fear has him asking the question, “Jesus are you still the One?”  The connotation here is clear…if you were really the Son of God I don’t think I should be in jail right now.  Its like he’s saying, “Are you really the Son of God who takes away the sin of the world?” like he had preached earlier in the book.  Jesus’ answer?  He answers in the affirmative of what He was doing in the world.  Jesus says back to John’s disciples,
“Tell John that :
The blind see,
The lame walk,
Lepers are cleansed,
The deaf hear,
The dead are raised,
The wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side.
Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed!”

Jesus shows here that we are most blessed when we see what Jesus is actually doing here in the world.  Experiencing God in nature is often as illuminating (sometimes more!) to what God is doing here on earth than sitting through a sermon.  Our faith is most transformative when it is experienced.  Witness them both, God says, and watch me work in the world.  Experiencing the power of God’s work in the natural world added almost a 3-D experience to preaching and baptizing on Sunday.  God is at work in the world, through a whale’s breath and baptizing people who are journeying closer to Him.  “Follow me, watch for what I’m doing, and be transformed as you move closer to My heart.”  This is a word from the God of the universe on this day.

Want to see what I saw?  Here you go…(but you really had to be there).

Blessings!

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The Ripple Effect

In Bethany North,The Church on June 14, 2011 by scottsund Tagged: ,

At the fishing lodge where I work, we are constantly around water and the ocean.  And yet, though I’ve done this work since I was 9 years old and been guiding people on the ocean since 13, there are still things about the water and the natural world of the Inside Passage that continue to amaze and instruct me.  Just a few days ago I trailered a boat to the town of Sointula where the boat launch is.  I backed the boat and its captain down the ramp, and we backed the boat into the water and dumped him.  He pulled the boat out of the harbor and to ensure everything would go smoothly on this inaugural voyage of this particular boat for the summer, I walked to the edge of the harbor and watched his boat cruise across Rough Bay towards Graveyard Point where he would turn and head towards Meynell Point where our dock is.  The boat zipped by without incident (which is always a good thing) and as his passing  engine’s noise slowly dissipated, the sound of stillness invaded into the early evening quiet.  The sound of silence was amazing…there wasn’t another sound for a good 10 seconds.  Then a bird chirp.  5 more seconds.  A boat horn way off on the water.  Then a few seconds later a car passed by.  Then more silence.

And then I heard the waves from his boat slowly wash over the shoreline of Malcolm Island, over 30 seconds after his boat had passed beyond view.  Splash, splash, splash…waves slowly breaking on the rocky gravel of the shore.

It had me thinking of the ripple effect which wiki describes as “The ripple effect is a term used to describe a situation where, like the ever expanding ripples across water when an object is dropped into it, an effect from an initial state can be followed outwards incrementally.”  In this case the passing boat had created a wake and though the boat had moved on, the waves continued on until they had an impact when they reached the shore.

This reminds me, in some ways, of the church I’m so very far away from as I write this morning.  In the 10 months our church has been in existence, I’ve been a little bit like the shooting boat zipping in fast forward with purpose and energy and the call of God.  But my impact, now that I’m away, is very limited.  It is actually the movement of the people of the church that will impact the world and continue to be a force to impact things.  Even as I am gone, the work continues and the volunteers keep on with the continuing and steady force of a boat wake heading for a shore…even if the shore is a long way off.

Making a difference in the world to be a light for Christ can be a daunting task, but on this evening I was reminded that it is perhaps simpler than we sometimes make it.  Christ changes us, in very small ways, like a pebble dropped into a puddle or a boat cruising through an otherwise calm bay.  And then the force from this encounter creates a small, steady, but continual force (like boat waves) that will carry on and on and on.  The waves continue on with a force that is not their own, they need only be faithful to the encounter and continue on until they reach the point when they reach the shore.  As Christ makes an impact on our lives we are changed by this encounter and set forth on a journey “charged to make a difference.”

I’m inspired and strengthened by the people who are making a difference at our church from their Christ encounter.  People volunteering at Jacob’s Well, a shelter for homeless moms and kids.  People volunteering at Arden Senior Center to do a bible study with senior citizens.  People volunteering with Syre Elementary school to work with students.  Families off to Africa this week to serve in Zambia.  People getting ready for a mission trip to Haiti.  All of this is happening right now in our little community.  People transformed by Christ, charged to make a difference, wave by wave by wave.  It is simple, and yet it is beautiful.  And this is how the world is changed, one wave at a time, to make Jesus known.

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Happy Anniversary Bethany North

In Bethany North,The Church on April 2, 2011 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

Trailers, and muffins, chairs stacking and speaker wire being unrolled, and carts stuffed with children’s ministry materials shuffling down the halls.  These are the sights of Bethany North’s new location at Spartan Gym at the Shoreline Center every Sunday morning.  Creating a church service out of a public use gymnasium takes a lot of volunteers who put in a ton of elbow grease.  Preparations start every Sunday at 7:30am to get ready for the 9:30 am service time.  At 9:30 every Sunday, between 75 and 150 adults gather with up to 70 children.  The entire facility is teeming with vibrant life.

In the first 6 months of Bethany North, the core team of Plank Owners (those that set sail with us in September and who work so hard to create this new church) has created an active church in the Shoreline area.  Our vision is to connect people as the body of Christ in order to truly serve the needs of North King and South Snohomish Counties as we live out the call to be the aroma of Christ.  Every week, new people come in and are welcomed by the strong, rich coffee and a fresh-baked muffin from the Edmonds Bakery as the hospitality team greets them.  Inside the gym, Bethany North worship director Ben Koole strums out the first guitar chords and the congregation sings.  During the teaching time, Pastor Richard delivers his message via video that is taped-delayed 1 week from his delivery at the Green Lake campus.  It is a great church service.  But what we’ve learned at Bethany North is that the church service alone isn’t the church.  The church is the body of Christ gathering to worship and then heading into the world to display Christ.  Every Sunday after the volunteers pray we have a saying that we repeat: “go and be the church.”

In Ephesians Paul writes, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.  And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. Ephesians 1:18-23.

Do you love this?  The eyes of our heart enlightened?  So that we may know the hope that God has called each of us too?  The power for those that believe?  Man…its powerful stuff.  The fullness of our faith is found in the true life of Jesus Christ, and it is through the church, Christ’s body, that we understand how it all fits together.  This is counter-cultural to a fast food spiritual nation that has been dosed a heavy serving in recent decades of a “me and Jesus” attitude that honors self sufficiency above community.  The problem with self sufficiency is that at the end of the day, if we rely on ourselves to understand God, we’ll never have a very full understanding.  There are no Lone Rangers in the Christian faith.  We are all called to connect together as the body of Christ.  This inter-dependence and community at the heart of the Christian faith is embodied in the 3 in 1 character of the doctrine of the trinity.  At our core, Christians believe that God, made up of Jesus, the Spirit, and Father God, is really just 1 entity.  How does this work?  3 things becoming 1?  Its a holy mystery for sure, but a mystery that exists within a framework of community.  This is what it means to be a follower of Christ- to be connected to others on the same journey.

Through the last 6 months, a beautiful church is emerging at Bethany North.  Deep friendships are emerging as people serve together.  This is what it means to be the church, living life together in a common goal of making Christ visible in our local communities.  If you haven’t had the chance to experience Bethany North, come and “be the church” with us some Sunday.  We’d love to have you.

 

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Earthen Vessels

In Bethany North on February 7, 2011 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

On Sunday Feb. 27, just 3 short weeks away, the small church I help lead is moving locations.  We currently meet each week in a community center in Shoreline and over the course of 5 months, the current location keeps feeling smaller and smaller as our community continues to increase.  So in 3 weeks we will be moving north 20 blocks to the Spartan Recreation Center at the Shoreline Center.  On Sunday we showed the promo video for the new location (below) and people were super excited.  We all love the sense of growth and it is exciting to be part of something that seems to have such energy and trajectory and momentum behind this.  This is the stuff of dreams.  And this is also the story of the Gospel.

Jesus calls us not only to follow Him in simple obedience, but spend our life expanding His Kingdom here on earth by living out His mandate to love our neighbor.  Keep in mind what Jesus says before departing earth in the Great Commission.   Jesus tells us to GO and MAKE DISCIPLES.  Definitely, as disciples of Jesus, we hear the call to move and grow and advance His message.  We are meant to grow God’s kingdom by spreading the Good news.  So as our church grows and spreads out, there is much to be celebrated and excited about.  This is a good thing.

But the problem arises at times with the “why” of church growth.  We all know God desires for His lost children to come and build relationship with Him and be reconciled unto the Father.  Truly, this is why Jesus came, to atone for our sin and allow us a way back to a loving relationship with our Abba Father.  These motives are pure and beautiful and worthy.

However, at times, I lose sight of this.  I struggle with pride and vanity and self-importance.  As I grow the church, I have to be careful that I’m not trying to grow myself.  The focus, or the “why”, has to be on Jesus.  Everything we do must be about enlarging His territory, and not our own.  We are meant to grow the Kingdom of God, not the Empire of Self. The dictionary defines empire as “Imperial or imperialistic sovereignty, domination, or control”.  Simply put- it is exhibiting control and power through subduing others.

But Kingdom?  The dictionary defines a kingdom as “A realm or sphere in which one thing is dominant”.  Empires mean to subdue.  Kingdoms seek to enlarge.  See the difference?  Paul says about the gospel of Christ, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” The point of the gospel is not about the vessel, it is about the treasure within.

Without Christ, I will always mess this up.  If left to my own instincts, I will seek to glorify myself.  I will focus on the “vessel” of the church as if we are enlarging an empire.  No, that is not what Christ desires.  As we grow and enlarge the church, everything we do must point at the center of our faith: Jesus Christ.

So why are we moving?  Simple:  we want more space for people to come and hear about Jesus.

Get Ready to Move: