Hi Five Oakers,
I have a few things I want to share with you today.
#1 - I loved the third service last weekend. The other two didn't impact me as much. Seemed a little disjointed and irrelevant. But the third service engaged my heart and helped me focus on God. I connected with God in that service.
#2 - Oh yeah, maybe I should tell you why the third service connected with me? It's the only one I attended from start to finish. It's the only one where I heard the call to worship, prayed a Scriptural prayer of confession, sang all the songs and participated in the response stations with my heart engaged and seeking God. It's the one Lois attends (she teaches 5th-6th graders on Saturday nights), so it's the service I attend from start to finish. I was in and out of the other two at various points (mostly in the back of the worship center), and I could hear most of what was happening in the green room, but there's nothing like being in there from start to finish. And, for me, it's important to sit toward the front where there are less distractions. Do I need to spell out the moral of this story? I think you get the point.
#3 - Here are some of the comments on the Com Cards from this last weekend:
- Female vocalist that led song has a beautiful voice. Thanks for sharing your gift and obvious heart for worship.
- Thank you for telling us what we need to hear. Not what we want to hear. Pastor Henry called out the “ritual” followers – awesome! Do you mean it, when you invite Jesus? Loved it!
- Great drum work this a.m.!
- I liked that prayer, the corporate prayer.
- Thank you for the worship set. Really great message Henry – very well constructed. Great closing song. Cool video Tim! [I love the video. Tim made it in one piece and from what I hear, the conference was quite impacting on the students.]
- Pastor Henry, thank you for your love of God’s word and your desire to share that with all of us. You and your family are in our prayers for wisdom, protection and the daily filling of the Holy Spirit. Thank you for all you do!
- Thank you Henry, for the “picture” reminder of putting/letting Jesus get in the driver’s seat.[You'll be hearing that one more and more. It's a great illustration of spiritual maturity I picked up from the REVEAL team when I went down to Chicago a few weeks ago. We'll be unpacking that one for some time to come.]
- Thank you for your excellent teaching on this passage.
- Excellent illustration of Jesus in the car!
- Henry, your lesson today came at the perfect time for me. It’s so amazing how God continues to work in my personal life. I will be sharing your lesson with a young man [from Africa] that my husband and I have been mentoring. It will be a good spiritual lesson that I hope helps in an area our friend has been struggling in. Thank you. [The more spiritually mature you are in your faith, the more sharing what you've learned with someone else (to help and mentor them) will impact you more than learning it.]
- Thank you Worship Band! Henry, thank you for exposing my gods and revealing God’s desire more fully in my life. Thank you.
- Henry, powerful sermon. Thanks for speaking into our lives.
- Henry, one of your best sermons ever. Thanks! Jon – great to see you on the bass again.
- We enjoyed the dinner at church last week. Any way to make it a regular event! [Maybe. It's something we have begun to consider, but I have no idea if we will.]
- What version was being used today? Didn’t seem to be ESV. [I double checked and it was. Let me know if you notice it again. I wonder if there are differences in the edition I'm using and the one you had.]
- Flickering lights during response too much.
#4 - I received this message from a Five Oaker on Facebook: "My 'Timehop Abe' service that tells me what I was doing a year ago today informs me that last year on this date I was in church, and we were just starting into the book of Luke! I think the last year has been awesome, btw." I had no idea. Looks like it will be a two-year journey since we're about halfway through it.
#5 - My nickle collection is growing! Thank you all who are praying for me and letting me know by giving me a nickle. I want you all to know that I pray for you too. I pray through the prayer requests with the Elders, but then I take it home and continue praying for you every day. If you let me know how to pray for you, you can be assured I will.
#6 - The nickle and prayer idea came from Stephen Kendrick. I love seeing people applying what they learned when he was here. I'd like to know if some of you have started using his family devotions idea. The Elders and I were talking this morning about prayer and Kendrick's sermon and it got me thinking about all the ways we pray as a congregation:
- We pray for people far from God at the Light station.
- Our prayer team and Elders keep busy praying for people who come for prayer during the response time.
- Several other stations focus on prayers of one kind or another.
- We often pray Scripture together in the call to worship, confession and assurance times at the outset of our worship services.
- The worship team prays over every chair every week (representing the people who will sit there) before the Saturday service, and they have several other prayer times each week during rehearsal and during the services.
- We have prayer partners for all of our Kid's Hope mentors. My prayer partner is in regular contact with me. When she drops her daughter off at school on Mondays (the day I mentor), they pray together for the kindergarten boy I'm mentoring at Woodbury Elementary. On Sunday the prayer partners went out to lunch, shared ideas and then went to the school for a "prayer walk."
- The Student Ministry is doing one of the twice a year prayer nights tonight. Justin will lead on acoustic, candles will line the worship area, the kids will have an open mic for sharing requests, and a lot of praying will be happening.
- The Prayer team also prays through the Communication Card prayer requests and sends notes out to the people they prayed for.
- Our daily Group Life integrates prayer into the Bible reflection time for each day.
- All of our small groups spend time praying for each other.
That is just scratching the surface. God invites you to pray. He calls you to prayer. I wish there was a way to pray in your place, reflect on Scripture for you daily and provide substitutionary prayer on your behalf, but there isn't. Only you can do it. And only commitment to it daily will help you grow spiritually. Praying once a week in corporate worship won't cut it (even if you add a second time at your small group meeting.) You simply won't grow into deeper love with God that way. Offering more prayer ministries in our church won't cut it. You have to pray...daily! At some point you need to grow up enough to pray without a pastor leading you or a program at church facilitating your prayer time. You don't know how? Well Paul Miller gives very practical advice on how to develop a daily prayer habit toward the end of A Praying Life. Get the book. Or meet with someone who knows how to pray and ask them to teach you.
#7 - Here's the only comment we received back this week from the cards we send first time attenders:
- My first impression of Five Oaks was extremely positive. After one service, I felt I had found a new church home.
#8 - I just downloaded a book from one of the Summit speakers from last year: Humilitas. It cost me $2.99 and I will read it on my Kindle app on my iPad or iPhone. I knew it was on sale because I subscribe to a daily email that announces special deals (I have already downloaded a couple of other books for free this week). Go to Gospel eBooks and get on their mailing list right here. Most deals disappear after 24 hours!
#9 - See if you can detect the order in our worship this coming week. I've been hinting at changes we've been incorporating for weeks now. Nothing different this week from the previous weeks. But when we plan, there is a general movement to the service. Below is what guides our decisions on what to do for each element of the service. All killer; no filler. (At some point in the not-to-distant-future we will begin to offer a worship guide that spells this out, but we're going to keep on just doing it before we start showing it.)
There are basically four movements. There are also movements within movements. But the basic pattern is Revelation and Response. We hear from God through his Word and we respond to his revelation.
So our worship begins with prayers and songs inspired from the Scripture to PREPARE our hearts to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed from the Bible (this includes hearing God's call to gather and worship, confession and assurance of God's forgiveness). As we hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we experience his REVELATION through his Word and the inner, mysterious working of the Holy Spirit. Our RESPONSE to this revelation (and it is crucial that we response) is accomplished through songs, prayers, and practices facilitated through our stations. We close by celebrating the witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that is, God's church at Five Oaks through stories, testimonies and announcements about our church family life; SENDING us off with a benediction reminding us of how we can live in the blessing of God's grace.
Come ready to worship this weekend and God bless you.
In God's love and grace, Pastor Henry