Planting Grass or Pulling Weeds? Creativity in the Margins



Are you proactive or reactive? Do you want to plant grass seed or pull weeds?   When I’m tired (or lazy), I find myself primarily reacting to problems or requests, endlessly pulling weeds for problems that come up. Yet being proactive is like planting so much grass that the weeds have no room to grow. How can we be proactive and creative, not simply reactive?

Creativity grows in the margins of our life. When every waking minute is filled with activity, conversation and entertainment, then our souls have no space for creative ideas. Solitude and silence are the soil in which life-giving insight spring up. When we take time to cultivate margins, to listen to God from his Word in an unhurried manner, to listen truly and deeply to people around us, then we are far more able to respond creatively to the challenges that face us.

I am grateful to recreate margins this summer which have enabled creativity to grow. My two weeks of focused study followed by two weeks with the family were a rich time to encounter God’s grace in surprising ways. God’s grace encountered me through everything from $10 tickets to watch the musical Hamilton, to the gift of four tickets to the Cubs game when my mom was in town and 2 tickets to the U2 Joshua Tree concert tour at Soldier Field. More importantly I felt God’s grace while marinating in God’s Word, in hiking in God’s creation at Starved Rock, in numerous trips to the swimming pool with my girls, in enjoying the blessing of exercise in a fresh way. Each of these ministered to my soul and body in special ways, and God’s lavish and undeserved grace in providing these gifts underscored my sense of gratitude in this season.

Let us keep healthy margins for creativity can grow. Unhurried times of prayer and meditation of God’s Word, adequate physical activity, and meaningful connections with family and friends are all essential to keep those margins clear. As August nears and summer wraps up, may we cultivate a heart of rest in the midst of the busyness of the fall so that creativity might blossom in the margins of our souls.

Posted in Church Leadership, Family, Living the Gospel, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

We are Growing (Eph 3:1–12): Sermon Summary for 7/30 at Wheaton

2017.07.30 We Are Growing - P Mitch Kim .001

Growth demands ownership. While a few leaders can own and carry a smaller church, the larger the church grows the greater the circle of ownership must expand. A few months ago, I found myself in a scary place. About a year and a half into our church merger, I felt stuck between a crushing feeling of inadequacy and a conviction that I could not quit. While everything was going well on the outside, the toll of keeping things moving forward was wearing me out. In my inadequacy, I reached out for help, and a number of people stepped up to carry the burden together. Reggie R. planned the sermon series. Cheryl B. stepped in to lead a few of the staff meetings. Greg W. stepped in to finalize the budget preparations conscientiously. The elders stepped in to pray and carry the burden together. And I realized a critical truth—I cannot do this alone. The growth of church demands the ownership of all of God’s people. What began to happen over the last couple of months in our soul simply with the pastoral staff and leadership needs to spread throughout the church as a whole. The growth of the church demands the ownership of all of God’s people. So what does ownership look like?  Ephesians 3:1–12 shows as we own God’s purposes for a specific people, we proclaim his purposes and fulfill them in Christ Jesus.

First, we must own God’s purposes (Eph 3:1–5). The apostle Paul does this in Ephesians 3 as he owns “the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you” (3:2). As a steward, he is entrusted to work out God’s purposes for these people. This purpose had been revealed to him, a mystery that was not known in previous generations but “has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (3:4–5). Similarly, ownership does not begin with the needs of the world but the purposes of God. We must embrace from God’s Word the purposes that he is working out among us. Paul marinated his heart in the riches of those purposes.

As a result, we must own God’s purposes for a specific people (Eph 3:6–7). Paul was a prisoner “on behalf of you Gentiles” (3:1), and he unpacks God’s purposes and applies them specifically to them, that “the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (3:6). Paul sees himself called to minister to a specific people. Similarly, we are all called to minister to a specific people. There are specific individuals around us that God has called us to be his hands and feet to whom we must reach out with his love. And as we embrace their needs, we unpack the riches of God’s purposes that apply to those needs.

Yet we do not only own God’s purposes for a specific people, but we must proclaim his purposes to that people (Eph 3:8–9). Paul does not simply pray for God’s purposes, but he proclaims those purposes so that they would understand. We must similarly share God’s purposes with people in a way that they might understand so that their lives might be changed. God’s purposes are brought to light as we proclaim “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (3:8). People will not know those riches unless we share them.

Finally, as we proclaim his purposes, then we will fulfill those purposes in Christ Jesus (3:10–12). God’s purposes are not realized by our own giftedness or strategies, but they are fulfilled “in Christ Jesus.” God’s eternal purposes are accomplished so that “through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (3:10). Our church is not simply a part of my plan or a good strategy; our church is a part of God’s “eternal purpose” (3:11). Yet the purpose is already “realized in Christ Jesus our Lord” (3:11); we simply are applying the results of what has already been realized.

Praise God. As we think about what God is doing at Wellspring, we must not allow growth and the appearance of things going well make us become passive consumers in the process. In a small church, it feels that all hands are on deck because the church won’t survive without you. In a larger church, it feels like everything is already done so well, so what more can I contribute? But we need each one of you. Borrowing from Spiderman, “With great resources comes greater responsibility.” While most of the resources of a smaller church may be consumed for its basic functions, a larger church has resources not only for its survival but also to reach more people in more places in more different ways. God’s purposes are bigger than our current growth. Let us discern his purposes and partner to see them realized in Christ Jesus. Together. #wearewellspring.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Blessings In Disguise

By Stephen Hong

When our plans for God do not pan out the way we imagined, it is inevitably disappointing and can lead to discouragement. But is that all? Can frustrated plans actually be a blessing? This story is about disappointments turning into encouragements.

Going into the past school year, I was full of hopes and dreams. It was a new year, and I was starting a new role at Wellspring. My plans for God included expanding a mentorship group, growing the number of home groups for college students, developing student leadership and discipleship, and helping more students integrate into the life of the church. However, I often found myself disappointed and discouraged. The way that I pictured a discipleship group did not go as I planned. I thought home groups would quickly multiply after a year, but they didn’t. I asked, “God, why would you not bless the great plans I have for you? Don’t you want these students to flourish and grow into the purposes that you have for them?” I was devoted to these great plans for God, but I had lost sight of my devotion to God.

When David lost everything in Ziklag and his men were about to kill him, he was greatly disappointed in God. How could he not be? Yet, he did not lose sight of God and “David found strength in the LORD his God” (1 Sam 30:6b). And as David was strengthened in the Lord, he sought the Lord for a plan and overtook the Amalekites and destroyed and restored everything back to how it was with more blessings!

The Lord was graciously reminding me of my need for Him. His ways and thoughts are higher and infinitely greater than mine. As I devote myself to Him in the Word and prayer, my love for Jesus increases and this means my love also grows for the students. The inductive bible study that I prepped might not have gone the way I wanted in the discipleship group with Samuel, Matthew, and Joseph, but at the end of the year they felt genuinely loved by Christ through our honest times of sharing. And all three of them are now trying to lead a bible study and evangelize their non-Christian friends over the summer! Home groups might not have multiplied, but looking back, what the Lord did in the leadership community of Harvard, Dana, Christin and myself and the students was so encouraging. Diverse in age, gender, ethnicity and culture, we knew we had to talk about some of the current racial issues in our country. As we took the time to share our stories, the Lord brought us into intimate times of worship, prayer and honest conversations about our hurt and pain. Through these times, not only did we have a greater understanding of one another but God was healing us and building us into a true community.

I am so grateful to God for these disappointments because through them I was able to experience deep encouragement.

God is at work. But, are we patient and humble enough to see what He is doing in the midst of disappointments? Disappointments are opportunities for encouragement rather than discouragement. As John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn 3:30).

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Sermon Summary – July 23 at Warrenville

We Are Servants (Ephesians 2:8-10, Matthew 5:13-16) by Pastor Steve Hands

Who are we, and who are we called to be as a church? We are welcoming, connected, and united, but we were never designed just to get along with each other. We are the community of those united by our faith in the saving death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God. And our faith is designed to express itself in service. The love of God we’ve received should pour into us, and overflow into our communities. When we engage our faith through good deeds, we ourselves are assured of our salvation (Eph 2:8-10), and we provide the testimony a doubting world cannot deny (Matt. 5:13-16).

First, the love that impels us to serve others assures us of our own salvation (Eph 2:8-10). We are saved certainly by God’s mercy, as a free gift to be received by faith (Eph 2:8). But faith is meant to be more than belief or trust on its own (James 2:14-26). Faith is belief and trust in Christ that leads to acts of obedience (Eph 2:10). As we experience the reality of God’s love transforming our hearts to love others, we become assured that the Holy Spirit does really live in us, that we have been sealed with God’s promise, and that the resurrection is already raising our hearts from the dead (Eph 1:4-14, 2:4-6).

Second, our acts of service provide the testimony a doubting world cannot deny (Matt 15:13-16). Apologetic reasoning and archaeological evidence provide assurance to believers that our faith is grounded in reality, but they are often not compelling to convince non-Christians of the reality of Jesus as the Son of God. But when the transformation of our lives leads to the transformation of our households, to the love and care of our neighborhoods and schools and coworkers, no argument can stand. When our “light shines before others… they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven”.

The fight between faith and deeds is as old as the church, yet God designed faith to overflow into deeds. As we learn more of the love of God for us, and grow in our understanding of what he’s done for us, may we not keep that all to ourselves, but may we overflow in deeds of love.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sermon Summary – July 23 at Wheaton

We Are Servants (1 Samuel 30:1-31) by Pastor Mitch Kim

At Wellspring, are we consumers or servants? Consumers focus on satisfying their own needs; servants meet the needs of others. At Wellspring we have stepped obediently into a difficult mission in merging two churches, and consequently we have discovered that community is hard. This should not be surprising; both growth and diversity make community difficult.[1] If we are consumers, then we will not surmount the hurdles to community before us; the work will be too exhausting or troubling, and we will give up. However only when we are servants shall we work through the difficulties of diversity and step into the consequent opportunities that God opens before us. We are servants; we must rule with the heart of a servant and serve with the heart of a king.[2] This Sunday we will look at how David lived this in 1 Samuel 30:1–31

First, we must serve with the heart of a king (1 Samuel 30:1–15). When we serve with the heart of a king, we draw from unlimited resources at our disposal to meet the needs before us. At Ziklag David faces immense tragedy as the wives and children of him and his men are kidnapped and his city is burnt down. While his men want to stone him, David strengthens himself in the Lord his God and leads them to pursue the enemy. When he captures a foreign Egyptian, he also serves him by feeding him, and this foreigner provides the key to lead David and his men to their enemy. David served with the heart of a king, drawing from God’s supernatural resources to address and serve the needs of his own men and a foreigner along the way. Similarly we must keep this heart of a servant for the needs of those around us.

Also we must rule with the heart of a servant (1 Samuel 30:16–31). When we rule with the heart of a servant, we take the platform and position that we have to serve and not lord over those around us. David brings back all the livestock, but he does not take it for himself. Not only that, but he refuses to punish this those who were too exhausted to follow and allows them a portion of the spoil (30:21–25). Also he shares the spoil with the elders of Judah as well (30:26–31). He clearly blesses those around him with his platform and position.

So what? At Wellspring, we are servants who serve with the heart of king and rule with the heart of a servant. Let us not shy away from the challenges of community before us, but let us step in with courage and strength.  Let us combat the consumerism that surrounds us with a heart of servant. This happens one little act of kindness at a time.

[1] Diversity in neighborhoods can cause people to hunker down and huddle together away from community:

inhabitants of diverse communities tend to withdraw from collective life, to distrust their neighbours, regardless of the colour of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television. . . . Diversity, at least in the short run, seems to bring out the turtle in all of us (R. Putnam, “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-First Century,” Scandinavian Political Studies 30 [2007): 150–151.

They hunker down like a turtle in its shell and huddle in front of the television.

[2] Bill Johnson , The Power that Changes the World: Creating Eternal Impact in the Here and Now  (Grand Rapids:  Baker, 2015) , 82.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Wellspring Worship and The Gilmore Girls

By Reggie Ramos

A question that I’ve been pondering for the past year and a half while serving in worship at Wellspring has been “What is worship supposed to look like at Wellspring?” I still don’t know the full answer to that question, but part of the answer came from an unexpected place: The Gilmore Girls.

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with The Gilmore Girls, it was a television show about the relationship between a single mom and her daughter that ran for seven seasons from 2000-2007. And I have to confess, I am a fan. I’ve seen every episode. Multiple times.

For some of you, upon hearing that you’ve lost whatever respect you had for me, because there are not that many male fans of the show. But hear me out.

For the first five years of marriage, my wife and I did not have children, so during those early years, many of our quiet evenings at home were spent watching TV together. Sometimes I would choose, and sometimes she would choose. And at that time she really got into The Gilmore Girls. At first I didn’t get the show, and it became a divisive issue. But it was our time together. And out of my commitment to her, I would stay. And watch. And over the course of time, I found the characters growing on me. And I was seeing how clever the dialogue was. And I became a fan. But it started with my love for my wife.

Back to Wellspring worship. What direction are we going? We’re still seeking the Lord about that, as we reflect on bringing together the strengths of each legacy congregation with the fresh input God has brought to us through new people. But we have become such a diverse congregation culturally and generationally, that there are bound to be worship expressions or experiences that would be not your first choice. Rather than see that as a loss, could we, out of love for the other, see it as an opportunity to grow in an unexpected way?

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Linked In Growth

By James Lee

When you look at a picture of the youth group, you won’t recognize many students. And that’s EXACTLY how I want it!

I don’t mean to say that your unfamiliarity should be born from a place of nominal interaction with youth. Rather, your unfamiliarity with students should be from “Linked In Growth.”

In the online social platform “Linked In,” the program categorizes connections via “degrees.” The first degree would be a direct relationship (Matt knows Susie). The second degree would be an indirect relationship (Matt knows Susie who knows John). The third degree would be a more indirect relationship (Matt knows Susie who knows John who knows Amy). To Matt, Amy would be a third degree relationship.

The youth group has been experiencing FIFTH DEGREE growth! It’s the sort of growth that is healthy. Students are bringing friends. Those friends are bringing friends! It’s the sort of growth that makes you look at a picture and say, “I don’t recognize them.” It’s the sort of growth that causes new growth in different areas of the church.

Last Sunday, a youth student brought her family to church. Yes, you read that right! It was the youth that brought her parents, not the other way around. This family caused growth in other ministries. The Children’s ministry can grow by one. The youth group grew by two and the adult congregation grew by 2.

“Linked In Growth” doesn’t come from programmatic success. This sort of growth comes from an attraction to the sizzling bright light of Christ. He brings us near. We simply do our best to be a community that keeps Him at the core.

So praise God for this growth, and to Him go all the glory!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment