Is Bi-vocational Ministry the only way?

As many of you know, ever since Grafted started I have been working at UPS.  (Yes; there was that brief period when I was not employed by them in order to move from working at the Minneapolis Hub to the Airport… but it was an intentional move to find a job within the company where I had less hours… but I digress…)

Within the Ministry World working as a pastor and being employed by some other job is either known as Bi-vocational Ministry or Tentmaking.  This term comes from the way that Paul interacted in Corinth as recorded in the book of Acts:

Acts 18:1-4 18 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3 and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were Tentmakers by trade. 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Paul spent time working during the week to bring in an income and then proclaimed and reasoned on the weekends, trying to persuade as many as would listen about the good news of the Gospel.  While putting food on the table certainly is a big reason why people who chose to be Tentmakers do so, there are other benefits.  Paul wrote to the church at Thessolonica:

2 Thessalonians 3:7-9 For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. 9 It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.

Paul wanted to put an example before this church about what it means to be hard workers in the name of Christ.  Not being idle was not just an idea that Paul encourage the church to implement, rather it was a lifestyle that Paul lived out for them to see and emulate.

If it’s good enough for Paul, it must be good enough for me!  I love this style of ministry.  I get the chance to talk to people who I meet at work about my faith, I get to provide insurance for the Hammond family (so that Grafted doesn’t have to), and I get to be an example of going to work day in and day out (even when I really don’t want to!) for our church.  But is this the only way?  Should every pastor be required to work outside of the church to help support themselves?

I think that all of Paul’s ministry answers this question with a resounding, “NO!”  As he wrote to the church at Philipi he said,

Philippians 4:14-15 14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only.

Paul’s ministry was sometimes supported by sending churches, sometimes supported by the work of his hands, and perhaps sometimes a mixture of the two.  Different churches and different pastors will have different needs at different times.

It might come to pass that God will call Grafted to have a pastor whose sole income comes from the church, and at that time we will need to ask God if I am the man who should fill that role, or if I should continue Bi-vocational Ministry somewhere else.  God may call me to no longer be a Tentmaker, and at that point we will have to pray about if Grafted is the church where I should work.  We will all have to be willing to listen to God when and if that day comes.

Until then, I love being a pastor who also works at UPS.  There certainly are mornings when I would much rather stay in bed… but getting up and serving God by moving boxes is an honor that I will gladly accept!

Sharing the Good Thing You Have Found with a Friend

I had a wonderful experience this week.  And I want to tell you about it.

After my dad died one of my friends at UPS gifted me a massage to help me unwind from all of the stress of grief.  This was one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever been given.  Insanely practical and yet incredibly intimate.  My co-worker told me when she gave it to me to make sure to make an appointment with Ralph.  She has known him for years and Ralph always gives the best massages.  I cannot say enough about how wonderful I was to lie on his table and allow him to kneed the stress out of my back.  There were moments when he pushed on muscles right up to the point when I was going to cry… and then let them go and the incredible sensation of healing rushed in afterwards.  It was so wonderful that I had troubled standing up after the session because I didn’t want to get off the table and get back to the rest of my day.

In this short story there are two things that I want to share with everyone.

First, if you have a friend who has had a parent die and you have the means to gift them a massage, DO IT!  Like I said before, what a wonderful gift.

Second, if you are in need of a good masseur, I would highly recommend Ralph. (If you want to know where he works and more about him, shoot me an email dave@graftedcc.com and I can make sure you get the info.)

What did I just do?  And why did I do it?

I shared a good thing that I found with my friends.  I hooked you in with a leading promise of a good story to come.  I told a story from my life.  And I told you specifically what I wanted to share with you.

Why?  Far too often as followers of Jesus we make sharing the Good News of God’s love for us expressed through Jesus’s death on the cross such a difficult task that we just don’t do it.  Sharing about a massage is something small and really insignificant in the long run, but sharing about God’s love has ramification that can change eternity.

Share the best thing that you have ever found with a friend.  Hook them in with a leading promise about a good story to come. Tell a story from your own life.  And don’t be shy when you want to be specific about what you want to share.

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice…” Matthew 9:13, Hosea 6:6

As Jesus was interacting with the Pharisees He challenged them to fully understand these words.  He was quoting from Hosea 6 when God was tired of his people taking part in the Old Testament’s sacrificial system, but not having steadfast love for Him or their neighbor.  By implication Jesus was charging that the Pharisees might have all of the right actions, but they had missed the heart of what true worship is.  True worship is to have hearts that are orientated correctly toward God, toward each other, and toward ourselves.  As followers of Jesus, we proclaim that we are never going to get that kind of heart on our own, but instead we need God to recreate in us new hearts, take our brokenness and give us hearts that are chasing after the things that God is passionate about.  He needs to remove the sin from our lives so that we can have life.  We always need to be moving toward living out the hearts the God has given us, hearts that are bent toward mercy.

But does this verse imply that worship is not sacrifice?  Does it mean that everything that God said in the Old Testament about how to worship Him should be thrown out the window?  I don’t think so.  I think that the essence of worship, the essence that was revealed in books like Leviticus, should still be looked at as “sacrifice.”  To worship is to sacrifice.  I am not saying that we need to start bringing animals and tarps (for easy clean-up) on Sundays, but I am saying that if we are not viewing our acts of mercy as a sacrifice, or if they are not a sacrifice because they are too easy, then we are as bad as the Pharisees in Matthew 9.

Also, if you are looking at an act of worship (prayer, Bible reading, mentoring or getting together with your mentor, singing songs of praise, giving a friend encouragement in the Lord, giving financially to the spreading of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth, serving a family or person who has fallen on hard times, whatever…) and you decide NOT to do it because you will have to give something in your life up… then you also have missed the idea of what worship is.  To worship is to sacrifice something.  But, this also means that you can look at all you have given up for the sake of doing something for Jesus (giving up being single for the sake of married life, DINK for life with kids, living alone for living in community, not watching a TV show so that you can spend more time doing loving others, getting up early to shower for the sake of every nose you are going to interact with that day, you know… whatever…) as an act of worship!

What about you?  Is there anything in your life that you are doing in order to get the new heart and the new life from God?  Is there anything that you are doing because you feel like you should instead of doing it out of the heart that God has given you?  Are the acts of mercy that you do on a day to day basis done as an act of worship to God?  Do you shy away from worshiping God because you it would require you to sacrifice something?  What sacrifices have you made, or are you going to make, in your life that you need to stop regretting and dreading and instead worship God, who has given you the chance to give something up, through the experience?

Investment

As we are starting to look at the budget for 2018, it has gotten me thinking about something. I have come to realize that each of us faces a crisis. Okay crisis might be too heavy a word but it got your attention didn’t it? I am not talking  about a crisis of faith, nor am I talking about a crisis of leadership, nor a crisis of how the snow didn’t stick to the round outside today :-(. Instead I am talking about but a crisis of investment. Everyone in our church has a finite amount of resources and the question of where to invest them is incredibly difficult to answer.

Every day we have to decide how we are going to use those resources.  We have to decide where to spend our time; we have to decide where to spend our talents; we have to decide how to spend our treasure; and we all have to decide where we are going to invest our ticker, our heart. That decision isn’t easy.  If we decide to not decide we actually are making an active choice about where we are investing: ourselves.

To trivialize and simplify this question into the question, “do you give 10% to the church of everything you’ve been given” is to make a issue that is very grey into one that is black and white.  There is certainly some debate around the %10 rule.  I come from the perspective that it is a rule that doesn’t apply to followers of Jesus today.  God doesn’t want %10 of your time, your gifts, your money, or your heart.  God wants to be in relationship with all of you (10% is just training wheels for the rest of life).  God wants us to lay all of our lives down, to be used for His Kingdom’s and Name’s sake.  Our church can only bear God’s image the best that it can when everyone uses their gifts to glorify Him.  Our finances will only ever be in line with God’s heart when we think about how we are using every last penny to move His Kingdom forward (from how much you give the homeless person on the street to how much you tip your waiter or the barista when you go out, from how much you spend on entertainment to how much of our annual budget goes to supporting people who are spreading the Gospel in parts of the world we can’t touch by ourselves).

But the thing that I want to focus on the most in this post is the question of our hearts.  Investing your heart into something is a complicated task to be sure.  It is complicated because investing your heart isn’t something that people discuss often.  So let me ask 4 questions about the idea of investing our hearts.

What does it look like?

I think that one of the difficult pieces to investing your heart is the idea that I can’t just rip the organ out of my chest and give it to you.  Instead, let me propose that investing our hearts looks like investing that which comes from them: our emotions.  The Apostle Paul sums up this idea in his letter to the Romans by encouraging them to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (12:15)  Do you care about other people in God’s Kingdom, in our church, or in God’s creation enough that when they are happy you are able to be happy with them?  What about when they are hurting, do you also hurt?  The idea of caring for others also extends into the actions of caring for another as well.  Do you feed those who are hungry by bringing them food, do you give water to the thirsty (either spiritually or physically), do you clothe those who are lacking, do you visit those who are going through a rough patch? (Matthew 25:35-36)  The care you have for others shows how deeply and where you are investing your heart.

What is the return on my investment?

When we do care and invest our heart we receive (at least) 2 things.
First, we get the chance to reflect God’s care as shown through Christ to the world.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  (John 3:16-17)  God’s love moved Him to action.  By acting and investing your heart you are acting and investing just like God!
Second, b
y participating in extending the grace of God through Christ to the world we understand the love God has for us more fully.  When I care for someone whose day is then brightened, I can physically see how the love God has for me has brightened my life.  When I spend time planning a Marriage Retreat, or Gluten Free Baking, or my costume for Trunk or Treat, or food for the Fall Campout, or a Sunday Sermon I can physically experience the planning and patience it takes for God to work out His rescue plan for this world.  Even when I love someone who doesn’t love me back, I can feel the pain that God feels when I shun Him…

What are the risks?

There are always risks involved when you invest something, and the trouble with investing something like your heart is that the risks run very deep.  To care for someone and is to show them your heart and allow them the opportunity to shun your care.  When this happens our hearts can become hard to others, our hearts can break, and it can cause so much pain in us that we are unable to care again.  Those who have walked through this valley of despair will tell you that it looks like nothing is ever going to look right again.  When there is no light at either end of the tunnel, and there is nothing to do but keep on putting one foot in front of the other, investing your heart looks like the silliest proposition that anyone ever encouraged you to do.

How the God interact with investing your heart?

No matter if things go right or if they fall apart, I think that God looks at the investment of your heart with an incredible amount of interest. The Bible speaks about how on our own our hearts are broken and hardened to God, but that God creates in us a new heart that has the old nature cut away and He has His law written on it.  Your heart is a gift from God, investing it for His sake is the only thing that we can do.  If the investment comes back to you and your love and care is able to bring a brother or sister back into the realization that God loves them, then the rejoicing that happens in Heaven is a party I am sad I have to miss.  If your love and care returns with spite and so much anger that it inflicts fresh wounds on your heart, the knowledge that God was the one that fixed your heart in the first place can be a guiding light out of the tunnel of despair.

In all of this the only question that remains is how are you going to go about investing your heart in your life?  Where are you going to invest your heart at our church?

 

A Response to #metoo

Before starting this Midweek Update I stood here staring at my computer screen realizing that there was literally no way that I was going to be able to write anything that would come close to encompassing all of my thoughts, emotions, fears, and hopes about a topic we need to discuss.  This week my Facebook feed has been filled with the hashtag #metoo.  And I was sad.  I was sad because of the volume of woman who had experienced sexual harassment or assault in their lives; sad because of the women I know who could have but didn’t post #metoo who have to live with the pain of sexual harassment or assault in their past; sad again because I knew that the volume could have been ever so much louder in my hears; and sad because I realized that if I knew those who were not posting #metoo even though they could, how many more could have but did not?

There have been many voices who have advocated for the hurting and for the understanding of the depth of the problem in our world.  Where others have stood before, I don’t want to take their words and pretend that they are mine.  Instead I want to put their words before all of us and stand both with the people who have said them and the words themselves.  I want to highlight two people whose words I want to shout from the rooftops:

Tim Johnson is a Pastor at Hope Community Church in Minneapolis.  After seeing #metoo light up his social media he wrote: “It seems to me that we must frame the issue of sexual assault on the basis of what it is at its core: an abandonment of the vocation to bear God’s image rightly in God’s world for God’s purposes.  Sexual assault is an affront to human equality, dignity, and community because it involves one of God’s human creatures wrongly asserting the right to treat another of God’s human creatures as subhuman–as a non-image bearer.”  For those of us who see people as those who are made in the image of God, we must respond when the image of God is treated without the honor, respect, and care it is due (no matter how broken or different from me, you, or us they may be).

Jordan Hirsch is the Women’s Ministry Coordinator at Grafted Community Church.  After this same issue was highlighted last fall in the political campaigns she wrote: “Grafted seeks to be a place that helps the hurting heal, and I want all of you to hear this loud and clear given the news recently: sexual harassment and assault are sin.  If you’ve experienced those things, you didn’t deserve it or ask for it.  You were sinned against.  You were wronged.  We won’t condone sexual harassment or assault.  We will fight for you, help to protect you, and walk alongside you as Christ heals you.  Your value and worth are not found in your experiences, how clean your home is, whether or not you showered today, what your body looks like, how well-behaved your kids are, what kind of job you do or do not have, whether you read your Bible today, or how many pretzel sticks you ate last night.  Your value and worth come from being made in the image of God and from the fact that Christ died for you. That says you’re worthy; that shows you’re valuable.”

These two have shared words that are able to express my heart better than I feel like I can right now.  And so I will put their words before all of you.

The world in which we live is incredibly broken.  And I find that I am unable to fix it by my own power.  This issue requires that we all respond.  That we all respond with the truth of the Gospel that declares that God made each person with inherent value as a bearer of His image.  That we all respond with the truth of the Gospel that declared that He is continuing to create in each of us a new work out of the brokenness that is our lives.  We all need to respond in the moment we see the demeaning of God’s image with love for the hurt and correction for the one hurting.  We all need the love of God that is in Christ Jesus to be the healing force for this world.  It is the only thing that is able to do the hard work that needs to be done.

Lastly, if you have no idea how to respond to #metoo and want to, come find me.  Let’s talk about some next steps.  No matter if it is because you are saddened by the pain that those two words imply or if you have been carrying the pain of never having talked to anyone about your story.  I may not have all the answers we need, but I know some pretty awesome people who have always been there to help when it is needed.

Power of the Gospel and the Power of the Story of the Good News

Here is the first go at a Midweek Update requiring clicking on a link in Facebook.  I got some feedback that the posts were a little long for the Facebooks.  I certainly hope that this can be a better platform to reach people with the random thoughts I have throughout the week.

This week I have been thinking about the fact that the while the power of the Gospel comes from God alone through the death of Christ, the power of the story of the Good News comes because sinners are saved and lives are changed.  I know that I just said the same thing two different ways, but it has been an interesting set of ideas to consider.

The power of the Gospel comes from God alone.  When I think about the power of the Gospel I think about the power to be able to save sinners.  This power exists because God “for our sake… made him, who knew no sin, to be sin, that we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:21).  Our salvation was purchased and completed by the death of Jesus on the cross.  And so the power of the Gospel to saves sinners comes from the death of God.  Thus the first idea rings true.

The power of the story of the Good News comes because sinners are saved and lives are changed.  When we tell the story of the salvation there is power that exists in the name of Jesus, for “at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow… and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:10-11)  AND when we tell the story of salvation in our lives there is power knowing that the name of Jesus has worked in real time.  It is the changed life that will convince others that God is, that He is Great, that He is Good, (let us thank Him for our food?), and that He is relevant in the lives of those we love who don’t currently believe in Him.

That being said: tell people your story; tell what God has done; tell who you once were; tell what God did; tell who God is making you into; and in your telling your life will have power because the power of God will be on display for the world to see!

Sleep to the Glory of God

As I reflect on everything that I have one through in the past few weeks, months… really all of 2017, I am once again taken aback at how incredibly important sleep is as a foundation off of which all the rest of life can be based. Without it the likelihood that I become a jerkface in any given situation dramatically increases.

Sleep is a tricky thing. But I want to propose that we as a church start to view sleep as an act of worship. There are three ways that I think we can worship through sleep.

  1. Sleep is a way that we can be image bearers of God. After God had completed creating the world, in Genesis 2:2 the Bible says that God rested. If God rests and wants us to bear His image, then we too should figure out how to rest well.
  2. Sleeping requires trusting that God is going to keep everything going while you are asleep. Hebrews 1:3 says that the Son “upholds the universe by the word of his power.” When I go to sleep worrying about something, am I really trusting that Jesus is upholding everything or am I trying to take His place as the one who sustains all things?
  3. And lastly, sleep can be an act of worship because it is a time when we have to give up something (like staying up and binge-watching another show on Netflix) for the sake of something else (like how well I will be able to husband, father, and friend tomorrow.) Our discipline to sleep well is a chance for us to demonstrate to the world with our actions who Jesus is and what He has done for us (providing you take the opportunity to explain it to those who ask when the opportunity comes.)

As I write this I am kinda chuckling because I know there are those of us that are better than I am at this whole sleep thing, but I am hoping that we can figure it out how to honor God well with our sleeping habits together. How much sleep do you get a night? How much do you need to operate a peak potential? How much do you need just to scrape by? Does anything need to change?

How to help a pastor (or friend) grieve

This update comes on the last week of our third year as a church. After the first weekend in October Grafted will officially be three years old! Thinking back over that time I realize more and more as the years go on that I have no clue what I am doing. I know that I do my best to encourage you all with the good news that the Gospel brings to each of our lives, and that I live before you as an example of how to live in reaction to that good news, but the details of how to pull that off have always been a bit sketchy to me.
I have lived before you through the birth of my son and the near death of my wife; I have lived before you through my mistakes and my victories; I have sometimes led you poorly and needed to apologize and other times I have provided good leadership; we moved the location where we hold our weekly church service and many of us have moved where we call home on a day to day basis; we have started some ministries together and some of them have even worked!
With all of this in mind, I want to now come before you and let you see how a son, who understands his place as God’s son through Christ, grieves the death of his father. But once again I have no clue what I am doing. Some days it feels like I just didn’t talked to him because we missed each other’s phone calls. Some days the fact that I can’t call him anymore really hits me. Some days are days to get things done as a way to process emotions. Some days are days when I want to surround myself with my kids’ stuff animals and be in the fetal position for 8 hours. Grief is weird. And it has hit me at weird times.
I want you all to be a part of my grieving process.
That doesn’t mean that you need to always ask me how I am doing that day, but rather it means that I want you to be there. Be there so that later we can look back and say, “remember that time when I was driving down the road and I started crying for no reason and you were able to sit with me?” Be there so that we can look back and laugh. Be there so that when we want to look back we don’t need to tell the stories because we were both there.
When my first college buddy got married I was a part of the crew that royally messed up celebrating his wedding because our friend group had absolutely no institutional knowledge of how to do a bachelor party and all the other things. If this is the first time that you are seeing someone of our age go through the loss of a loved one, let me impart some of the institutional knowledge that I have picked up: you don’t need to do much, just show up and be there.

Why start a blog?

Welcome to the Grafted Community Church Blog. While there are many reasons to put thoughts to paper, it is my hope that this collection of thoughts can become a place where people are able to see the intersection of the church, theology, and life: the gospel.
There is no reason why this tool is better than any other tool for discussing these ideas; each tool has its place. With this tool I hope that we can connect and discuss so that when we see each other in real life that the discussions can continue.
I don’t expect everyone who reads this blog to agree with everything that I have to say, but I do expect for you to think about it and discuss it with at least one other person to test out what I have to say in another setting.
While some of what I have to say may have a theological bent to them, my aim is to always conclude my posts with a question: something that is applicable to everyone’s day to day life.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride as we journey together!

Gospel of John

Come and See Life in His Name

From the beginning of Jesus ministry in the Gospel of John (1:39) readers are invited to Come and See what Jesus does during John’s account of Jesus’s earthly ministry.  Along the way John reveals a miraculous healer and teacher whose actions are so powerful that John hopes that by us reading about them that we “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing we may have Life in His Name.” (20:31)  Join us as we read this gospel together, attempting to become like the first readers who come and see what Jesus is up to and to fulfill the desire of this Gospel’s author that we too would find a new life in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Listen to the sermon series here.