Dear Surfers,

I have been reading an article on how leading the church is much like surfing. Even if the last time you surf, the wave was awesome… that wave is gone for good! As a church we have to always be looking for what is working and what is not, where the waves are cresting and where they are not, how soon you should stand or paddle or look for the next one or not.

Luke 13:31-35 is about Jesus coming to grips with the changing times. Jesus is under threat from Herod. Adjustments need to be made, yet Jesus has a sacred persistence that will not allow him to be swayed off his mission. At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’He said to them, ‘Go and tell that fox for me,“Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it  is impossible for a prophet to be killed away from Jerusalem.”Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”’

As we approach our “Annual Gathering” this weekend we come together in a time when the waves are changing. The mission of the church to “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19) has not changed. However, the cultural shifts which surround us are of a tremendous magnitude. God’s Grace Community Church (GGCC) has thrived for nearly 9 years because the “surfers” that make up our participants are committed to doing what is necessary to ride the waves that come our way.

Veteran Church observer Peter Steinke notes that the Western Church is experiencing a shift from one historic period to another. He believes that large changes in the world around us have sweeping implications for the life of the church. In these prominent shifts that Steinke lists below, which ones do you think are direct challenges to the fidelity of the church in it mission? Which of these changes present the church temptations to deviate from its mission?

  • People are less interested in an intellectual approach to faith and increasingly drawn to the experience of faith.
  • Fewer and fewer people are following the footsteps of the family’s denomination and more are shopping for a church.
  • Congregational membership is less organized around an immediate neighborhood area and more around a regional area.
  • Authority in the congregation is shifting from vertical dimension (top-down) to the horizontal structure (network, teams).
  • People are attracted to churches that offer certainty more than to churches that offer information or knowledge
  • The visual is replacing the verbal as a major avenue for communicating the message the church wants to convey.
  • Churches experience greater competition for members. Those that meet the needs of the “consumers” are favored. Loyalty to an institution is being replaced by participation in meaningful groups or networks.
  • The role of worship is changing from a strengthening of the believer’s faith to a way of evangelizing. (Peter L. Steinke, Congregational Leadership in Anxious Time, The Alban Institute, 2006, pp. 75-76.)

The seas are changing. What a wonderful time it is to be on the sea together riding the new waves.

The staff gives thanks for each of you who seek to ride the waves together with us, from Rock Canyon to your home, office, market place, to Paris elementary, Open Door, The Gathering Place, Pine Ridge, to Nicaragua and where ever the seas take you. The experience of riding the waves communally is authentically in Christ. Let us gather this weekend in celebration of what the Lord has done among us and in anticipation of what is yet to come.

Still in One Peace,

Pastor David J. Jensen

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