The Orchard: Emerging from our chrysalis

030616As some of you know, earlier this year Kelley and I moved to the Sacramento area to help a church here begin a process of replanting and revitalization. We’ve been calling this our “chrysalis” phase. Sunday, September 28, we officially “emerged” from our cocoon! This is what—in church planting parlance—is known as a soft launch. We haven’t yet held any large events, but we have signs posted, we now have a public presence and we’re seeking to make ourselves known in the community. (You can check out our new website here.)

I hope to get back to blogging here in the not-too-distant future. But please be patient! At times, I’ll be teaching as much as 7 times a week. We’d deeply appreciate your prayers for needed team members, teachers and leaders. And especially pray that we’ll be faithful to reach out as missionaries to our community and effectively share the truth and love of Christ. Thanks!

Exploring a possible church plant

As many of you know, my wife, Kelley, and I moved back to California earlier this year, returning from over 13 years of ministering in Puerto Rico. Looking strictly at circumstances, it would seem the economic situation in Puerto Rico forced this move. But we believe God is sovereign over circumstances, and that the timing of this change was—and is—in his hands. The church there has transitioned from being overly dependent on one paid elder/pastor to being served by three unpaid, bi-vocational elder/pastors (along with others stepping up to do their part in ministry). They are now realizing the level of team leadership and teaching to which we always aspired. Although it was sad for us to leave, this is a good and healthy change.

imagesAs for us, we’re now in Placerville, CA (between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe). The transition for us hasn’t been as smooth as we had hoped. Over the past few months, we’ve had trouble finding good jobs, finding a place to live, and dealing with ministry opportunities that didn’t pan out. But we still trust God’s timing and believe that he has been working through these circumstances. We’re praying for wisdom and the sensitivity to be aware of any guidance God is giving us.

We’re prayerfully considering planting a church in the Placerville area. Some have asked me what a new church would look like (whether here or somewhere else). So I’ve written out four core commitments I see as essential for a new church. I’ll post them here one at a time. I’m not implying that these commitments would be unique to us. Some could prove to distinguish us from other churches, but this isn’t really the intent. The idea is that these four core commitments, together, would constitute the DNA of a new church. All other distinctive strategies and methods we might develop would be built on the foundation of these core commitments.

You may notice these posts don’t include a detailed description or vision for this new church. This is intentional. As you read through these commitments (or if you’ve read many of my posts on church leadership), you’ll see why for me to plan out in detail my vision for a church plant—and then look for people who will support my unique vision—would be contradictory. It’s not that I don’t have a vision or a lot of ideas for a new church! But the plan is to first establish a consistently biblical vision for a church plant. Then, as a team, we can brainstorm how to best apply these biblical principles to our specific context. The comment threads of these posts are a great place for this kind of discussion!

Been a long time

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything here. Well I’m back, and I’ll be blogging more regularly again. I’ll finish up my series on the historical Jesus (two final posts planned for that), I have some new series ready to start, and I’m going to be adding some shorter posts here and there. Thanks for checking back to see if anything’s finally going on here!

Dear folks, sorry I haven’t written lately

imagesThe last few weeks have been very busy ones, and not just because of the Christmas season. As much as I love writing for this blog, my pastoral ministry to our church family has to take precedence. Whenever there are pressing needs that require my time, this tends to limit the time I have available for writing. Such is the nature of ministry when one is the sole paid staff-person of a church. (You can be sure I thank God every day for our wonderful volunteer leaders!)

Along with the usual time demands this past month or so has been the need to coordinate some potentially exciting changes for our church. I’ll probably be writing about these developments in the coming weeks. And I hope to get back into the swing of things with this blog next week. To those of you who’ve inquired, thanks for your interest and patience!

So, what’s this blog thing all about?

After a long time on the fence, I’ve finally talked myself into starting a blog. (And for those who’ve been asking, no I’m not going to be Facebooking anytime soon. This is a big enough leap for me right now!) So, what is this blog going to be about?

Well, I can tell you what it’s not going to be about. I won’t be sharing with you what I ate for breakfast, posting vacation photos, or describing my latest angst-ridden purchase dilemma. Not that there’s anything wrong with that sort of thing. I just know it’s not the kind of blog that I’ll be motivated to maintain. I really enjoy reading blogs that offer things like film reviews and insights on the latest technological innovation―but I probably won’t be including much of these either.

I’m going to try to focus on the issues that I’m most passionate about: Just what is the Christian faith, and how do we live out our faith in a real way in our daily lives? How can we best be the church? How can we teach people to be real disciples of Jesus? How can we be real disciples ourselves? What are the most effective ways to lead the church? Why are we so divided on some issues, and is there a way to set aside our talking points and strive together for better clarity and consensus? What does God’s Word really say? And how can we learn from each other and those who have gone before us? How do we interact with the world around us? How can we most effectively share God’s love and truth with our culture?

These are some of the things that I want to be exploring. I hope you’ll be intrigued by a post here and there, and that we’ll get some discussions going that will allow us to dig below the surface. My goal is for us to sharpen one another, help each other to know God more deeply and to better understand how he calls us to be involved in what he is doing.