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June 26, 2019, 4:00 PM

Pray to the Lord of the Harvest


Dear Family of God at BSLC:

 

Grace and peace to you all, through our Lord, Jesus Christ!

 

As you have now heard, Pastor Chris has accepted the call to serve at St. Paul in Flemington, New Jersey. The current plan is that July 21stwill be his last Sunday with us. We anticipate having a luncheon that Sunday after worship (12pm), with an official blessing and farewell. Watch for more information in the weeks ahead.

 

In the meantime, pray for him and his family, that God would bless them during the transition and on into the future. Jesus is the Lord and the Head of the Church, and so we will trust that He is at work in good ways in Flemington, in Lee’s Summit, and all over the earth.

 

Say a prayer also for us (BSLC). As a church, we had not yet completed a time of transition, and now more change is upon us. We are still in our DCE vacancy (and our Call Committee is hard at work!), and now we are approaching a pastoral vacancy. What does this mean? What will it look like? How will we manage?

 

I don’t have all the answers. But I have a few thoughts:

 

We will have to be creative. You only have to talk to a handful of people to hear a handful of different ideas on ways to manage the staffing or schedule the worship or designate the resources and more. There are many options before us. Operationally, we will need to have agility during the interim and sustainability in the long run. The good news is that we have so many talented, intelligent leaders who have a heart for the Lord and his people! I am confident that together we will develop a good plan moving forward. As we pray and work and trust God, we will get through it step by step.

 

We must be good stewards. God has given gifts for us to enjoy and to use for His glory. Many people have been offering me their time and talents. “Pastor, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Pastor, let me know if there’s something you need. Pastor, make sure you take time for your family. Pastor, don’t hesitate to call.” I promise you all that I will not be afraid to ask for help, and I will not neglect my family. I really appreciate the encouragement. I want you all to remember this (and this is the same thing that encouraged me when I remembered it): I am not alone. We have an excellent ministry team here at BSLC! Yes, we are losing an important member of that team, but the team is still here, and we will help each other out in love and togetherness. We will be there for you, and I ask you to be there for us. I want to make sure you all understand that you help me if you help anyone on the ministry team. So, make sure Rick has the volunteers he needs for his projects. Make sure Katherine has all the helpers she needs for VBS. Be sure to encourage Jenn in her youth work, and see if she could use a hand. Check on Pam, and see if there’s something you could do for her, especially as we get to Upward season. Maybe Lisa could use an office helper for a day. We all appreciate the support. Ministry is a whole-church effort, after all.

 

God’s people are instructed not only to use their time and talents to the glory of God, but also to return a portion of their income to him. They give joyfully and generously to support the work of the Gospel. We reluctantly passed a “challenge budget” this year, knowing we had growing to do. Our expenses will change now, of course, but I see this is a good time to get ahead, if possible. Eventually, our staffing cost will increase. It must, in order to serve well a congregation this size. Please take a moment to consider what your income is and what you could give as a regular, firstfruits offering to the Lord. Has your offering been 5% of your income? Could you sacrifice and make it 7%? Maybe a tithe (10%)? Challenge your faith a little for the greater good of the kingdom. Together we can accomplish great things and make a greater impact with the Gospel in the community!

 

We will “Tell the Next Generation.Jesus said that “the harvest is plentiful.” Look around your own city and see all the people. Every single one of them needs Jesus. Some already know him, but many don’t. Be a courageous witness to them. Invite them to be a part of our vibrant ministry. And take an active role in leaving a faithful legacy for the children, and the generation yet to come.

 

Exciting things are happening! Did you know that our preschool is growing and expanding? Did you know that we now have some new, necessary key leaders in place for a Comfort Dog Ministry? Have you talked with any students who are raving about LVR, or spent time with the ones excited for the National Youth Gathering? Have you listened to new members as they shared why they joined BSLC and how much they love this church? God is at work in powerful ways here. Keep up the good work, knowing that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain!

 

Above all, we must pray and trust that God is in control. Jesus not only said that “the harvest is plentiful,” but also that “the workers are few.” Was he griping or wringing his hands when he said this? No. He trusted His Father to provide. In fact, the full quote is this: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Lk 10:2). So we will pray—not only that God would send the right workers to us, but also that each of us who are sent as missionaries into the world would see the ripe field and experience the joyful work of the harvest!

 

With you, I am joyfully…

 

…Boldly Sharing the Love of Christ!

 

Pastor Jon




May 19, 2019, 9:00 PM

Tell.



By Pastor Chris Schneider

We “tell” people things all the time. It’s called communication. At the dinner table towards the end of the day, one of my favorite questions to ask my son is, “how was your day?” In whatever answer he gives I get to hear him tell Jessica and I, from his perspective, what his day was like. I get to hear what he learned; the things he did; the kids he played with; sometimes I hear his honesty about some of the poor decisions he made and how he was sorry and wants to do better.

Most of the time his answer is followed up with the question pointed back to his mother and I, “how was your day?” In that moment he is looking for a similar response. He wants me to tell him about the best and worst parts of my day; the part of my day that was boring; the part of my day that was challenging; he even wants to hear about the times when I make poor decisions, am sorry, and want to do better. By the way, he needs to hear me say those things.

That’s what communication looks like. Asking questions. Listening. Responding. However, communication is becoming more and more challenging in our culture, as face-to-face relationships are being de-emphasized, and they are being replaced with virtual relationships. In fact, the latest smartphones are equipped to handle virtual reality. What is Virtual reality? It is a computer-generated simulation that seems real.

What about a virtual relationship? It is a relationship that can be simulated that can seem real. The best parts can be kept. The worst parts can be removed. Now, we don’t exactly have virtual relationships, but we do have things that simulate aspects of relationships. For example, texting is great; however, it offers no opportunity to fully communicate the way God has intended us to communicate (inflection in your voice, gestures, facial expressions, body language, rate of speech, etc.). The same goes for Facebook, Twitter, email, and even phone calls. Only face-to-face communication gives us a true depiction of relationships in its fullest. The problem with these versions of virtual relationships is that they are not a true depiction of reality.

The reality is that people are messy. That is the reason we sometimes run to those not-quite-full ways of communicating, because there we don’t have to be our true self. We can avoid the mess of others, and we can make sure people don’t see our mess. People are messy, and if people are messy that means that relationships are messy. Marriages are messy. Families are messy. The lives we live, even as Christians, are messy.

How often do we tell people that part of the story?

How often do people hear the truth that I am a sinner; I want to do right, but I find that it is difficult in this world? The Message translation of Romans 7:21 says it like this; “24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?”

Now, if the story ended there it would be devastating, even downright depressing. There would be no hope. There would be no chance for something different. That, in and of itself, is not a story worth telling.

But, when you combine that story (the law) with the story of Jesus (the Gospel) you get the whole picture.

The next four verses in Romans go on to say, 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! [...]  8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (ESV) That's the key. That's the hope. That's the story. 

God wants us to tell that story. As Christians in this world, God even calls us tell that story. We must tell that story.

Who are you supposed to tell? Anyone you meet. Everyone you meet. What does this look like? Start simple.

Tell your children.

Tell your families.

Tell your spouse.

Tell your community.

Tell your fellow church member sitting next to you in worship.

We, ourselves, need to be reminded of that story on such a regular basis that we know it frontwards and backwards, without a shadow of a doubt.

That’s what Jesus established the church to do. To tell!

So, that’s what we strive to do. We strive to find ways for as many people as possible to be told the story of sin-entering-into-the-world and a savior-breaking-into-the-flesh to save it.

We are, after all, BSLC! We Boldly Share the Love of Christ. That's our mission, because that has always been the mission of the church.

Now, don't be confused! Our church is messy, but for that reason we need each other - to encourage, to correct, and to remind one another of the message of the savior.

We walk alongside one another to do this difficult but important task. And every time we share this story it has a ripple effect on, not just one person or one generation, but to many generations. Therefore, let us never grow tired of this message, and let us always look for new ways to do it effectively and faithfully in the name of Jesus.

 




June 5, 2018, 9:40 AM

Keep Calm - I'm Going on Sabbatical


You may have already heard that I have been granted a short sabbatical leave. You may be asking a great question that Lutherans have asked through the centuries: Was ist das? What does this mean?

 

Have you noticed that the word sabbatical sounds a lot like another word we hear regularly in church—sabbath? It is, in fact, the same word. After six days of work, God took a sabbatical day. We too, according to the third commandment, are to have a sabbatical day each week, a day of rest, a day that is more about worship and the Word of God than it is, say, about taking a nap. In ancient Israel, even the fields had a sabbatical year, resting from the planting and reaping every seventh year.

 

In the same way, a pastor’s sabbatical is about being recharged and refreshed through the Word of God. So that he can focus better on learning and growing in God’s Word, it is a helpful thing to take a break from the daily grind.

 

Ministry is tough. It is grueling. It has joys beyond explanation, yes. It is fulfilling and a great blessing, yes. But it is also sad, battle-ridden, and draining. Therefore, churches are being encouraged more and more to have a sabbatical policy to help ensure wellness for their called ministers. BSLC has recently adopted a policy because it recognizes that granting a sabbatical is an important part of taking care of its workers and their families. So, while this is the first time you’ve ever seen one of your pastors take a sabbatical, it won’t be the last. And that should make you feel good.

 

So, what will it look like? From July 28 through August 27 (that’s 30 days) I will be unavailable. You will be in the capable hands of Pastor Chris and the ministry team. The Elders will be prepared to support and to call in additional pastoral help if necessary. All the life of the church will continue on as planned. It never really rests on me anyway (even though I put pressure on myself as if it does), but it rests on Jesus. He knows how to take care of His church that He redeemed with His own blood.

 

For you, it will look mostly the same, except without me. I will be present on 2 or 3 Sunday mornings during that time because I know I will miss you all and I do not want to disconnect from all of you for five Sundays in a row. But otherwise, I will be absent from my normal duties.

 

I am not leaving BSLC. I am not having a nervous breakdown. I have not crashed in burnout. While sabbaticals can help refresh and rehabilitate pastors in crisis, they actually work best when they are part of a preventative plan to ensure that workers are well. That’s why I commend BSLC for adopting a sabbatical policy, and I am excited to take mine very soon.

 

So, I will be taking a sabbath rest from:

Email (it will temporarily be deactivated)

Phone calls (calls will go to my voicemail with instructions to call the office or Pastor Chris)

Social Media (don’t get mad if I don’t “like” your posts; I won’t be on it)

Meetings

Preaching

Bible Class

Visitation

To-do lists

Go, go, go!

 

Instead, I will be:

Spending time with my kids (who are used to me leaving for meetings or to help someone)

Spending time with my wife (who puts up with a lot)

Reading

Studying

Writing

Thinking

Praying

Breathing

Just being a child of God.

 

There is a project that I want to work on while I am away from the office. I want to study the Body of Christ metaphor as St. Paul describes it in Ephesians and Colossians. It seems to me that he has a different emphasis in those books than when he talks about the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12. I want to explore that idea more, study it in depth, and write about it because I believe there is a message in that portion of God’s Word that Christians in our present age desperately need to hear.

 

Whether there will be any finished result of the project by the end of this sabbatical is yet unknown, but I do know that I will be blessed by the time studying Holy Scripture. And so will you.

 

It’s shocking how busy the life of a pastor is. We are in the Word daily, and yet there is little time to dive deep. We are constantly writing, crafting, sharing, and yet there is little time for the creative process. We are always utilizing the great wisdom of God that He has given in His Word, and yet there is little time for learning.

 

That’s why you should be glad to hear that a called worker is receiving an opportunity like this. So, keep calm. Everything is well. I’m going on sabbatical.

 

Pastor Jon




April 8, 2018, 1:52 PM

Don't Send Me Black Balloons


It’s a milestone birthday for me – 40!  But don’t send any black balloons.  My future is bright.

If you count the anniversary of my birth by the date on the calendar, my birthday was a few days ago (as I write) on April 2.  If you count it by the Sunday in the Church year, it is today, the Second Sunday of Easter.  Forty years ago, on the Second Sunday of Easter, April 2, 1978, a group of people gathered together in a house and held a church service.  As they read the Word of God, I was born. 

Soon they would name me “Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church.”

I struggled to survive from the very beginning.  My founding members worked and gave and taught and loved and corrected and welcomed—they did more than support the mission, they were the mission of God in action. 

But what a challenge lay before them! 
No building,
no land,
very few people,
an elderly pastor who would only be able to serve them for a few months,
and the teaching of God that is unpopular, though it grants life to those who believe. 

In the “consumer society” (yes, already back then and even more so now), how do you attract new members, and young families with children, and mature stewards, and people willing to work at the daunting task of nursing a baby church? 

You don’t.  You don’t attract them. 
Rather, you make an every Sunday and every day habit of
speaking the truth of God
and loving people with His own love
and you see which lives you will touch. 

That’s what my people did, and God blessed me richly. 

I survived my early years by the grace and strength of God.  Don’t send me any black balloons.  My future is bright.  Now I have a sanctuary, a Family Life Center, classrooms and offices, and I sit on acres of land.  I have hundreds of families.  God is good! 

But this, however, leads to an opposite problem.  Now I attract people. 
And people attracted to a building and land,
or to a program or ministry,
or to one particular worker,
or to the music,
or to any piece or part of me
are only casually connected

They easily come, and they easily go.  And that’s not good enough. 

I want each of them to know Jesus personally. 
I want them to hear the fullness of the truth of His Word. 
I want them to be able to experience the tenacious love of the other members who are here. 
I want them to know the joy of serving along with my people. 

How do I make that happen?  There’s no easy solution.  So, I must do the hard work that I did in the beginning: my people must make an every Sunday and every day habit of
speaking the truth of God
and loving people with His own love
and then see which lives will be touched.

I am, after all, only this: a body of baptized people (sinners) who are called, gathered, and enlightened by God through his Gospel.  His Spirit is at work in my people, moving them to hear the Word of God together, to receive the Lord’s Supper together, to serve together, witness together, weep together, rejoice and sing together.  And when other people don’t see the beauty and fullness of it, I genuinely feel sorry for them. 

And when some people only choose to come to worship once in a while,
or use their Bibles only in emergencies,
or are unwilling to accept right teaching;
when their funds are spent on sports and there’s nothing left for the Lord,
or when they have no time to join my people in serving their neighbors;
when they leave to worship something that is not Christ,
or when they leave and worship nothing at all;
when their priorities are seriously messed up, I pray for them. 
I strive to reach them. 
I worry for them.

But I don’t worry about me.  Don’t send me black balloons.  My future is bright.  For God’s Word is taught in me, and that Word is living and active. 
I rejoice at every baptism,
every confirmation,
every addition to the family. 
And I have people here who are shining stars in this dark world. 

You see, I am made up of people who are filled with the Spirit of God
and they work their fingers to the bone,
they wear out the knees of their pants in prayer,
they dig in their heels and will not yield one inch of doctrine,
and yet they love with their hearts wide open. 

Where there is tragedy, my people rush in to help. 
Where there is gladness, my people are quick also to rejoice. 
They sit in the hospital room with the sick. 
They bring food (lots of food!) to help the hungry. 
They show up every Sunday to greet one another with a hug or handshake,
they sing loud praises to the Lamb,
and teach the children about Jesus and walking in His way. 

They are born, they live, they die;
workers come and go but the Spirit remains;
I am ever changing, for I am an organism, not an organization,
and yet somehow staying the same.
Made up of people. 
The best people. 
People who refuse to become complacent. 
People who refuse to quit. 
People who love Jesus. 
People who do more than support the mission, for they are the mission of God in action. 

Will I be around until Christ returns?
Will I continue to grow?
Will I reproduce a daughter church?
What is in store in my future?  I don’t know.  I do know there will be struggles.  Strife within.  Struggles without.  Pressures, even attacks.

But I also know this:
God’s promises are true.
So even in these dark days the gates of Hell will not overcome me.
I am founded on Christ, the rock of salvation.

Don’t send me black balloons.  My future is bright.

- Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church




January 4, 2018, 1:23 PM

a time of change


If it weren’t for Nicole, I’d be that guy who goes to the same restaurant on the same day of the week, sits in the same place, and orders the same dish.  I like routine.  I like tried and true.  I like dependable and reliable.  I like simple.  I don’t like change.

I’m not anti-change.  Sometimes I get really excited for new things.  But most of the new things in my life are not my idea, not my default position, not my modus operandi.  So in my personal life, I am blessed to have Nicole and the boys, who keep things lively and interesting.

I don’t need anyone in particular to keep things interesting for me on church side of my life, however.  That happens naturally.  People move into the area and join the church, and then they move away.  I visit someone for years and years, and then they are transferred to the Church Triumphant and are with God.  Elected leaders are termed out, and a cycle of turnover is completed and begins again.  Called workers are led by God to serve elsewhere.  First a DCE (2010).  Then a Senior Pastor (2014).  Then another DCE (2018).  And I’m here, that guy who likes routine, the guy who likes tried and true, the guy who likes things simple and reliable—I’m here not only as “a guy” at church who has to cope with change and pitch in where I can, but I’m “that guy” who is supposed to oversee the transition and make sure we successfully set a course for the church (if you want to use a directional metaphor) so we can fill our vacancy and grow this Body of Christ (if you want to use a biological metaphor).

I’m not feeling ready for 2018.  Oh, you can be sure that we are hard at work making plans for the interim.  I think what we have in the works is a good plan.  We’ll follow all the proper channels before making any public announcements, but you can watch for them in the near future.  Plans for the interim will hopefully fall into place quickly, since the need is great and ministering to our children and youth is of utmost importance.  However, the “permanent” solution, calling someone to fill the vacancy, may take a while.  The process is unpredictable.  But the process is designed so we have an opportunity as a church to reflect, regroup, pray, trust, focus on the mission, and make decisions together with God’s Word in our minds, a prayer on our lips, and His love for all in our hearts.

Past experience has taught me that even in changes that feel like a loss, God is able (and does!) work good things.  When we “lost” our DCE in 2010, it brought Korey and Tiffany and family to us.  What a blessing!  And Pam was added to our staff.  What a blessing!  When we “lost” our Sr. Pastor in 2014, it ended up bringing Pastor Chris and Jessica and their son to us.  What a blessing!  And now that we have “lost” our DCE again, we can trust that God has a plan, a good plan in store for us.  Though we are challenged, we will be blessed.  And you can be sure that whatever it looks like for us to fill our youth ministry needs, we will be able to thank God for the provision.  Not someone we can call “better” or “worse” than before.  Not someone who is perfect (hint: no church workers are; far from it!).  But a worker or workers who is/are different, gifted, flawed, talented, and strengthened by God’s Spirit for the task.  It will be change.  But God’s promises are sure and trustworthy, so He will be with us in the midst of transition and beyond.

Meanwhile, I’ll do my best to cope with another vacated office at church and the extra work that entails.  Truth be told, I’m (literally) limping this morning, and I don’t know why.  I have a pain in my hip.  It’s probably a sign that I’m another year older.  Or maybe I pulled a muscle or tweaked a ligament playing dodgeball with the FIRE kids last night.  But as I’m thinking about BSLC’s ministry and feeling some hip pain this morning, I’m recalling the account in Genesis 32 when Jacob wrestled with God and refused to let go until he received a blessing.  God touched his hip flexor, and he came away limping—a constant physical reminder (albeit a strange one!) that God had given him a new name and a promise.

I’m no Jacob (though I am part of the New Israel, the Church). I did not wrestle anyone last night, and I did not see God’s face.  But it’s not wrong for me to wonder (is it?) if my hip pain is a blessed reminder from God to wrestle with all this in prayer, and cling to His every promise, and to not let go until we at BSLC see His blessing.  Maybe I’ll take some Ibuprofen.  Maybe I’ll let it hurt for a while as a reminder.  I don’t know about that.  But I do know that I will pray.  And trust.

And work.  And I am confident that you all will work with the ministry team here at BSLC.  I am joyful that I still have an excellent ministry team to work with in Pastor Chris, Tiffany, Pam, and Dawn, and a host of other leaders who are faithful disciples, using their time and abilities for service in the Church.  In the (almost) forty year history of this congregation, time and time again, God has provided.  This church has persevered.  Christ has been championed in the community and in the lives of the members.  The Word has been taught.  The sacraments have been given.  God’s love has been shared.  Many have been baptized, taught the faith, sent into their vocations to serve their neighbors.  Some have been carried safely home to be with Jesus.

In this world of continual change, there is one constant: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  That brings me great peace and hope as I contemplate all our recent change and the transition ahead.  It helps me to rejoice in all the good changes (we have a new roof, security cameras, a gorgeous new sign).  It helps me to be hopeful in our intentional changes (moving confirmation instruction, other various ministry adjustments).  It helps me to have peace when change is thrust upon us (the DCE vacancy).  Jesus is our salvation.  Jesus is the message.  Jesus is our strength.  Jesus is our reason and purpose.  Jesus is the Lord of the Church.

He’s got this.  I don’t.  I’m just...

..that “guy”,

Pastor Jon


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