T Minus Ten Seconds

By Debra Mason

Have you ever heard of the term “T minus 10 seconds”?  It is typically used in context of a rocket launch.  For me, it signified the time before the ministry year would begin for Wellspring Kids 2016.   Literally, I had T minus three weeks, what would God do?

God unified children’s ministry birth-4th grade around the Gospel Project in Wheaton and Warrenville.  Jessica Hands played a crucial role in helping me pinpoint this curriculum.  When I asked her point-blank, “Why do you like it?”  She said, “It sticks close to the Word of God.”

God brought caring, invested and dedicated leaders for all levels (birth-6th grade). I thank God for each of these leaders who trusted God to help them.  They provided an important consistency that is so needed in kid’s ministry.

God used His Word and willing hearts to grow His people, especially, His people who I call, “The church under three feet.”

Here are some tangible examples.

God raised up two kindergartners and a first grader to be leaders during the worship time.  Esther Jo,  a college student leader at the 9 a.m. service creatively came up with actions for some of our worship songs.  The children who attended the 9 a.m. ministry time learned these motions and at the 11 a.m. service taught other children.

On another Sunday, while doing a “build the wall” relay with cardboard bricks, (Nehemiah 4-7), a child turned to me and remarked, “Jesus is watching us.”

Preschool children were led in hymns and songs of the faith.

All children were prayed for regularly by the leaders.

Children were invited to lead in prayer after the Bible story time.  Several children came forward to pray.

Bible storytellers creatively and prayerfully presented the Word of God.

Despite the daunting nature of the phrase “T minus”, God, somehow, turned that countdown into something which yielded fruitful and beautiful results for the year in ministry at Wellspring.

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God is Bigger than the Highs and the Lows

By Cheryl Baird

God is bigger than the highs and the lows.  My daughter and I have tattoos on our left wrist that say exactly that! She suggested it last year as we were experiencing stress in our family and she wanted a constant reminder of God’s presence.    It’s easy to lose track of the goodness of God when things are going very well, and it’s easy to doubt Him in times of trouble.

Our annual meeting this past Sunday was packed full of highs.  We cheered the financial news which included making our budget despite being significantly behind only a few short months ago.  God’s provision was shining through with that announcement!

We installed new leaders, and thanked the old ones. We celebrated the news that Pastor Steve Hands was able to go full time as the Pastor in Warrenville because our board took a risk and approved an aspirational budget.    We were celebrating and thanking God for leading us so clearly!

And then the text came in, and we stopped.  We got word from Pastor Steve that his wife Jess was having an emergency C-section that very moment.   Pastor Mitch called us to prayer, and we begged God for mercy, protection, and healing for Jess and the baby.

The atmosphere in the room shifted from celebration to concern.   A baby in distress is the worst possible news.  I looked at my wrist, and He reminded me once again that He is Lord over all.   He is greater than the celebrations and greater than the sadness of this life.

He is Lord over all and He sees and knows and He is with us. Let’s be a community that leans into our God always.

“Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit” Jeremiah 17:7-8

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Busyness, Denominations, and Summer Study

 

 

Last week I was in Columbus Ohio to join with our wider family of over 2000 churches in the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) of America. I loved eating wonderful food with many of our International Workers and reconnecting with friends. For today, I have a few random thoughts on busyness, the demise of denominations, summer study, followed by a teaser of an exciting upcoming announcement.

First, I must not allow busyness to crowd out the best. I came into Council weary. I found myself easily distracted, and my personal unseen times in God’s Word were not as rich as I wanted. My vision for God outstripped my vision of God. During extended times of worship and receiving God’s Word at General Council (video of all sessions here), the oil of God’s Spirit moistened dry and parched places to breathe on my dry bones and bring life. I also had a couple of great runs early in the morning in Columbus through the downtown area and by a river, and it was beautiful. Travel in new cities refreshes me.  My time in God’s Word were rich and dripping with fresh insight. I am grateful and reinvigorated by times like this, and I am grateful.

Second, we are part of a global family called the Alliance. When I was younger I heard about the demise of denominations to be replaced by voluntary church networks like the Willow Creek Association and the Gospel Coalition. Yet such voluntary church networks lack infrastructure. They lack the strategic infrastructure to move God’s Word forward in the least reached places in the world and the disciplinary infrastructure to keep churches healthy over time in this country. I am particularly grateful for the good leadership of our President John Stumbo. He combines a genuine heart for God with an inspiring vision for the future and a realistic assessment of the present. His personal story is moving.  We will have him at Wellspring in September. Wellspring now has two people who will serve on the Board of Directors in the coming years, and I am grateful for our wider family.

Third, after this coming Sunday, I am going to unplug from the pulpit for a month after our Annual Meeting. Each year I have found a need for two weeks of focused study to prepare an outline of sermon topics for the coming year, and then spend some focused time with my family. After preaching twice in Wheaton and once in Warrenville on June 11, I will next preach in Warrenville on July 16 and in Wheaton on July 23. Ouch. That feels really long to me as well! Yet I am encouraged by the rich lineup of speakers who will fill the pulpit from international workers like Rod and Christiana Van Schooten to Phil Vischer. Also we will kick off our #wearewellspring series in July, and our own pastors (Steve Hands, Cheryl Baird and Reggie Ramos) will speak on the areas of their own passion to lead us forward. During this season let us stay engaged together as Wellspring together in the life of the church — I am planning to do so, and I hope that you will too.

We also have exciting news to report this Sunday about our fiscal year which ended in May. I can’t wait to celebrate with you. Remember that our Annual Meeting is this Sunday at 5 PM; join us to celebrate what God has done this past year, thank leaders for their service and look forward to the next stage of our journey as Wellspring.

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Moving Forward (Acts 7:44–60)

Moving Forward Title

Change is never easy. Very broadly, Living Water has navigated changes from small to large, mono-generational to multigenerational, and  monocultural to multicultural.  Very broadly, Blanchard has navigated changes from a comfortable (yet declining) stability to an uncomfortable (yet growing) change, from an older and deeply trusted leadership to a new and younger leadership, and from monocultural to multicultural. Yet we are not the first church to go through seismic changes; the early church went from small to large in a day, from monocultural Jewish to multicultural Gentile, from a predictable Jewish practice to unpredictable Spirit-filled obedience. How did the Holy Spirit prepare the church for such change? How do we navigate such seismic changes well? In Acts 7:44–50, Stephen shows how God’s presence leads the church through change. How?

First, God’s presence is not limited to past encounters (Acts 7:44–47). When we encounter God powerfully, we want to confine God to the boundaries of their past. The Jews in Stephen’s day wanted to confine God’s presence to the temple. Yet Stephen reminds them throughout Acts 7 that God’s presence is not limited to any one place. The tent of witness had traveled from the wilderness to the Promised Land until it found rest in a house (7:44–47). Yet previously, God’s presence had been known to Abraham in Mesopotamia (7:2), Joseph in Egypt (7:9), and Moses in Sinai (7:30). Similarly God’s presence is not limited to past encounters in Jerusalem. This is critical to hold onto in times of change. We must remember that past encounters do not confine God to the past, but they should prepare us for the future because God leads us forward.

Second, God’s presence dwells with the humble (Acts 7:48–50). Even when Solomon built the temple, he knew that “the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands” (7:48). Where then does the Most High dwell?  Stephen quotes Isaiah 66:1–2 in Acts 7:49–50 which continues, “But this is the one tow home I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isa 66:2). God’s presence is manifest with the broken and contrite in spirit.

Now Stephen’s sermon about God’s presence gets him martyred. But this sermon also lays a theological foundation for the expansion of the church beyond Jerusalem, and the church learns that it need not confine God to their past encounters with him in Jerusalem. Similarly as we move forward this year, let us not confine God to our past encounters with him at Blanchard or Living Water. Let us move forward, propelled by our encounter with his presence and following him wherever he goes.

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Warrenville Update

Some of you may not know that we have a campus in Warrenville also!  It was launched in 2006 with a number of families from Blanchard Wheaton, and today our campus pastor Steve Hands will share about the blessing of our partnership:

This year has been an excellent year for creative partnerships between our Warrenville and Wheaton campuses. Our staff really dove into our multi-campus reality. Pastors Mitch and Steve worked hard together on our joint sermon series so our whole Wellspring family could be united under the same teaching. James Lee poured himself out into student ministries in both campuses Sunday after Sunday, and on Wednesday and Friday evenings. Debra Mason stepped in and supported our early childhood ministries, and our early childhood leaders helped Debra establish a unified early childhood curriculum across our campuses. Cheryl Baird brought EQUIP leaders John Walton and Scottie May to bless both of our campuses this year and trained small group leaders for both campuses. As three congregations we joined together for some of our most powerful times of worship during our joint services in our Anniversary celebration in October, as well as Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. If this year is any indication, we should all be excited for the ways we’ll continue to grow together across campuses in worship, mission, and discipleship!

This has also been a great year for growth in our kids ministries. Our students and kids continue to be an integral part of worship leadership in Warrenville, with kids leading us in vocals and instruments on Sunday mornings. For the first time we put together a kids Christmas play, which the kids knocked out of the park! And this year we grew our early childhood ministry to the point where split infants from toddlers, creating a better environment for both teachers and kids. So many people stepped up and into leadership to help that happen. We have students serving as ushers and as jr. shepherds with early childhood. Our kids and students certainly aren’t waiting to grow up and be a part of the church; they’re blessing us by serving and leading now!

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Simply Working (Col 3:22–4:1)

2017.06.04 Simply Working Colossians 3 22-4 1.001

Jesus Christ is Lord of all — of Monday through Saturday as well as Sunday, of salon, the school, and the soccer field as well as the sanctuary.  If Jesus is Lord of all, then his lordship affects our work. But often the worlds of worship and work are miles apart. How does our worship change the way that we work? How can work itself be seen as worship?

First, since all work is to the Lord, we work sincerely (Col 3:22). Whether we work as a pastor or plumber, a theologian or a thespian, a teacher or a truck driver, all of our work is to the Lord. Therefore we work with”sincerity of heart,” not double-minded serving the Lord in one way on Sundays but working with compromise on Monday–Friday. Even the work of bondservants is dignified, and their work should be done “fearing the Lord.” While on the surface these verses seem to support slavery, they actually subvert them as they address slaves as full members of the community, but their work is dignified as to the Lord.

Also, since all work is to the Lord, we work heartily for his reward (Col 3:23–24). Sometimes good work is not properly compensated. However we can be confident that the Lord will reward, since we are “knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward” (Col 3:24).  These are revolutionary words for slaves who could not have an inheritance in that day, but when we work heartily, the Lord will always reward.  As a result we work for the Lord and not for men.

Finally, since all work is to the Lord, we work justly and fairly (3:25–4:1). Our wrongdoing will be repaid (3:25), so whether we are slaves or masters, we should act justly and fairly (4:1). Ethics matter. We work for the Lord, not for men.

So what? Jesus Christ is Lord of every square inch of all creation. Therefore every type of work can still be a vocation, a place of calling from God.

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Root Canals, Novocain, Giving and God’s Promises

local-anesthesia

Speaking on giving at church can be like talking about root canals at the dentist; it has to be done, but nobody likes doing it. On the other hand, not talking about God’s promises on giving at church is like withholding novocain from that person with the root canal; the pain of giving is alleviated when we know God’s promises about our giving. This past Sunday I preached about “Simply Giving,” and few messages have elicited as many responses.

“Your story resonated with me because I also remember the painful sacrifice of giving and the wonderful provision from giving!”

“I was reminded of how God provided when we had nothing. When my three year old daughter wanted an expensive Christmas present that we could not afford, we wondered what to do. What a surprise to go the local department store and find the very thing that she wanted on the returns desk for just $5!”

“I remember wondering how we were going to get our children to college on our limited income. Yet our children each graduated private Christian colleges completely debt free!”

On and on the stories came. I realized that God’s promises have been proven true by God’s people time and time again. As I thought about this, I resolved to never shrink from the opportunities to share these promises with God’s people. Jesus indeed calls us to costly obedience, but the path of costly obedience is paved with powerful promises from God’s Word.

Your generous giving over these past few weeks has made up much of our budget shortfall. Praise God! More importantly, our steps of faith-filled obedience continue to bring opportunities to see God’s provision. “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Cor 9:8). May we, indeed, see this abundant provision realized among us!

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