I have been thinking about numbers a lot lately… Numbers define and measure things.
We weigh ourselves (side note starting 2020, 25 less than 2019) We check our balance in our checking account (mine always seems to be lower than what I think!)
We set goals at work, at church at school and we wait and count the numbers so that we can measure results.
We are judged and evaluated by the numbers… My fear is that the charts we use don’t really tell the story… they don’t really give us good insight into the real or the whole story.
Did you know that only 11% of churches average over 200 people? Only 8% of people who go to church think that it is important to share their faith. (check barna, CT today, pew studies and census reports)
As a pastor, leading people to a full life in Jesus that in turns leads them to share their faith is no small feat.
We measure ourselves by attendance (I call this butts in seats) budget (response to the mission, and obedience in biblical truths and discipleship) Salvation (those who encounter Jesus and accept him as their savior) Baptisms (those that make a public statement of faith).
And while those numbers tell a story, they don’t tell the whole story. Do those numbers tell us the impact we have on the community? The age-old question, would your community miss you if you weren’t there?
Churches should be thinking about how to repurpose the church to redeem the community. This question asked by Mark DeYmaz in his book “Disruption” has been on my heart and mind a lot. Now I should say that I was thinking this before I read it. For the past 5 years (really longer) I have been thinking about how the church is effective in making a difference in the community. Honestly, the “come and see me inside my 4 walls” just isn’t the model that will carry the church on in the years to come.
What does that mean? What does it look like? My vision for Trinity is to reach One Percent of the Lehigh Valley with the love of Jesus Christ (around 8500 people)
My word for this year came months ago, and honestly, it is not just 2020’s Word of the Year. It is my new focus. My new mission. My new ministry. Reimagine! Reimagine Church, Reimagine Community Development, Reimagine how people come to know Jesus. To think outside of my experiences, my history and my comfort to see God’s kingdom come here, as it is in heaven.
Did you know that the average church attenders will only come to church once every 4-6 weeks. That means to have a church that averages over 200 (only 11% of churches) you actually have to have 3x in people to reach that average attendance.
When we came to Trinity in 2014, average attendance was 70 people. With a responsibility list of about 175. Since that time our average attendance has grown to 380. But what I found interesting is that we have 621 people that are active on our list (meaning these 621 people come to Trinity “regularly”) then there is another 511 people who are on our list that come to Trinity 3-4 times a year. Which brings the number to 1,172 people who would call Trinity their home church.
Now let’s not forget the online people, because they are important and growing. Then there is another 250 per week (could be some of the people above who aren’t physically there but not all of them) tune in at some point during the week and watch some of the worship service.
Now then, we have over 300 people come to know Jesus and a little less than 100 people baptized in 5 years.
Numbers are tricky things, aren’t they? Some of you are going, “Wow! That’s great.” Others are saying other things… while others would say, Trinity is not multiplying , just adding… nothing to see here… add some campuses, do some other things like that… then maybe you will arrive…
But how about these numbers… in the last 3 years Trinity has impacted the lives of over 700 children in the Allentown School District. We have a group of ladies that we like to refer to as the Zumba ladies who every week invest in the lives of the homeless over the past few years that number is well into the hundreds. Or how about the couple that spends every Friday night in the prison discipling and leading a group of prisoners with the gospel.
Or how about the Zumba program that takes place at our church where over 100 women every week come through our doors, exercise together, then the leader shares a devotional and prays for them. Since it began over 350 ladies have come through our doors.
Or maybe we could talk about the Young Adult group that goes once a month to the Memory Care Facility up the street where they minister to 20 older adults who are not longer at a place they can come through the doors.
You see reaching the One Percent of the Lehigh Valley doesn’t always mean you have thousands of people walking through your doors… but it does mean that you equip believers to go and share Jesus. And Jesus is being shared.
Numbers are important and help us measure results. But numbers can’t be the only thing, or where we find our value. You see I won’t reach the 500 club (and yes this is a thing) I won’t be ask to speak at a large conference (that’s okay too) and no one will want an interview (well except my dad!)
But what I know is that the best is yet to come- what God is stirring in my heart and is laying before me is amazing. The dream that he has planted and is growing in my heart and imagination are beyond anything on my own strength or know how … but I can’t wait to see how it unfolds.
I am not satisfied with or okay with 2/3 of the world population not knowing Jesus. And if we don’t catch up to the fast pacing, ever changing culture we are in, the church will continue to be left behind.
Numbers do not define me or the mission. God defines me and the mission. When we start looking at other things, we can be blinded to the very things that are calling us forward.
I have been thinking about numbers a lot lately... Numbers define and measure things. We weigh ourselves (side note starting 2020, 25 less than 2019) We check our balance in our checking account (mine always seems to be lower than what I think!) We set goals at work,...
Often times I can't believe I am here. A few months ago, I stood behind the very pulpit my grandfather preached for over 25 years to the same church, living out his calling. Although, he didn't get to see or know that I became a pastor, he would probably be the most...
Here I am in the dark of my living room, when I should be in bed, sleeping. My first meeting is at 6:45 in the morning. I should be doing what normal people do at this time of night...sleeping. But here I am, awake. And my mind is racing with thoughts. I downloaded a...
Often times I can’t believe I am here. A few months ago, I stood behind the very pulpit my grandfather preached for over 25 years to the same church, living out his calling. Although, he didn’t get to see or know that I became a pastor, he would probably be the most shocked and proud.
In 15 days, I will be stepping way out of my comfort zone and going to a place I have being dreaming of going for a few years now, Sierra Leone Africa. I am grateful for the opportunity that has been granted to me and I can’t wait to see how God is going to use this trip to expand my vision and ministry.
And even though my excitement is mixed with some fear (anxiety!) I know that God is ordaining my steps. In the next few weeks I can’t wait to share all that God is doing and showing me for the future of the ministry he is calling me too.
If you think about it, pray for me as I go and all the last minute details will be worked out.
The biggest thing is not simply leaving my comfort zone but preparing my heart for what God is going to do in me and through me. I understand that when I return I won’t be the same. My vision will be changed, the lens in which I look at life will have a new perspective.
Let’s face it, we all have lens in which we look at life and it is easy to get stuck in believing that our vision is the only one. But the reality is, our vision needs to be checked regularly. And the older I get I realize that my vision is connected to the condition of my heart.
So here I go… October 31 I will board a plane, fly clear around the world (or at least half way) and for 10 days, I will experience and see things I have never seen or heard.
In the words of Toto- I bless the rains down in Africa!
Here I am in the dark of my living room, when I should be in bed, sleeping. My first meeting is at 6:45 in the morning. I should be doing what normal people do at this time of night…sleeping.
But here I am, awake. And my mind is racing with thoughts. I downloaded a new worship album Abiding Worship, by my good friends The Mark Dubbled Family. Its simply on repeat right now on Spodify. You should check it out.
Its been a really rough couple of weeks. Technically speaking I have been on vacation but the reality is often life doesn’t go as planned and real life takes place in the middle of our plans.
My father-in-law, Ben Colburn, finished his fight with cancer. I don’t know that I can adequately put all that down today. Its still fresh and in processing mode right now. What I know is God’s grace is good and holy. Death is not pretty but can be filled with peace when we know where we are going and it is our Heavenly Father we will see when we wake up on the other side.
What I know is that in my #didntgoasplanned life is God is still present, He’s still faithful and still working in me and around me. I can plan but God’s plans are better, even if I don’t always see it right away. We have been prayed for and over. I am eternally grateful for the ones who have walked this with us.
What I am learning in this season, is how to be Gina. Just as God created her to be. Leading well, even when its hard and not popular. Loving my family well in the places that each one is currently in and allowing them to learn who Jesus is in the middle of their #didntgoasplannedlife.
I think I must be a slow learner, because some lessons I have to keep repeating. Which brings me to my knees and humbled before the Lord. My messes, my questions, my doubts.
To sum it up, in the last 2 weeks we have driven 3,663 miles, we have gone to a wedding, a funeral, a family reunion, visited the Emergency Room, cancelled a family vacation for 8 people to Florida and have landed back home. Home… maybe just a building made of stone and wood, but so much more than the physical matter that makes it up. Home the place where we find the comfort of our bed, our favorite blanket, the smell of our favorite candle. The last 2 weeks, memories have been made, goodbyes and see you laters have been spoken and the promise of another meeting in a different time zone, and place… where this life will end and the next one begins with Jesus face to face.
I am in a sermon series right now called “This is our City”
I have been thinking about it and dreaming about it for months. Praying about
how God could use me and the church he has ask me to shepherd to make greater
impact for His Kingdom.
In the meantime, I have been reading books, studying
scripture and keeping a close eye on my city and my interactions with it. For
some they maybe wouldn’t call my City an actual city compared to other large
cities in the US. But Allentown is the fastest growing City in PA and is experiencing
growth all around.
This series has been eye opening, gut wrenching and thought
provoking. But honestly shouldn’t all series be that way? I started with the
scripture found in Deut. 14 27 And
do not neglect the Levites in your town, for they will receive no allotment of
land among you. 28 “At
the end of every third year, bring the entire tithe of that year’s harvest and
store it in the nearest town. 29 Give
it to the Levites, who will receive no allotment of land among you, as well as
to the foreigners living among you, the orphans, and the widows in your towns,
so they can eat and be satisfied. Then the Lord your God will bless
you in all your work.
This scripture I have read many times, but new insight popped
out at me. God loved community so much from beginning to now, he put a structure
in place to care for it. He loved is to much he put “churches” in community to
protect it, to care for it. He puts a whole tribe in place to guard community.
And if the church operates like it is supposed to then we would need a whole
lot less government involvement. And yet, the church hasn’t done a stellar job
at times in history of protecting the community and meeting its needs.
The directions are clear on how we are to care for the
community and the people in it. First, I should say, I do not have an answer for
the crisis on the border. I am not smart enough or educated enough to know how
to handle massive amounts of people seeking a fresh start, safety and basic
needs of life. And I am in no way making any kind of political statement here,
laws and the ability to support this must be in place or people fall through
the cracks, children get lost in the shuffle and lives are damaged not helped.
What I do know is that as a Christ Follower, I better be
taking care of them, showing them kindness, helping them in any way I can when
they show up in my community. That is the church’s job. Maybe it is helping
them navigate a broken process or helping them with basic needs or simply being
a friend with open heart and open home.
Taking care of the marginalized, the widows, the orphans, I
wish it was easy and clean. But it isn’t, it is difficult and messy. Looking at
the state of PA alone, over 15,000 children in our foster care system, and over
15,000 churches… what if just one family from each church stepped in… we would
take care of every child needing a home in the state of PA.
I love Jesus with all that I am, and sometimes I get it
right but often I get it wrong. I love the church, the body of believers called
to live out the great commission of Jesus Christ. My eyes have been open of
late to things I have never picked up on before. My heart has been broken in
fresh ways for the way the world is broken. But if I throw stones at the
church, who does that help? No one. It just shows the world that we can’t even
get along so why should they be part of it.
A year ago, March, something significant happened in my
life. I became a Gigi. Michel’le our beautiful bonus daughter gave birth to our
adorable little Nora. Her life was prayed over and for long before she took her
first breath. My days with Nora are filled with snuggles, giggles and playing. Maybe you wonder how this has to do with love
our city… Let me explain.
Nora looks a little different than me, I tell everyone she
has my eyes and smile. I don’t see her different than me, but that isn’t the
reality of the world we interact with. Recently we went to the store together,
she had her Starbucks Tea, I had mine (Shhh… don’t tell her mommy!) and I
noticed with fresh eyes how people begin to look at us. Some ladies gave me the
bless your heart for caring for “that” child look. Others looked away. But then
there was a young couple with their little boy, who waved, smiled and
interacted with Nora and we stopped and talked. Then as we were leaving a beautiful
African American couple stopped and talked to me about my beautiful
granddaughter. We exchanged names, information and where we went to church.
I left sad that racism on all sides exist. I left reflective on how I can be a voice of
change. The church I shepherd is 84% white and although it reflects our immediate
neighborhood it doesn’t reflect our city. We strive to honor God in our worship
not just reflecting just one style or ethic groups. Finding worship music that
transcends all races and styles. Looking at the global church and seeing what
can be done in multicultural, multi-generational settings. And yet even then,
those would still stay, we are just not doing it right or effective or reaching
I just don’t have the answer, other than my heart is that we
find ways to close gaps, heals hearts and be a true representation of the
global church of Jesus.
As I continue this Series “This is Our City” my prayer is
that it just won’t be four weeks in the year we look at how to make in roads
into making a bigger impact on our city. My prayer is that we take seriously
how to be the pastors of our neighborhoods, missionaries in our communities and
the people that carry the Hope of the world. That one day we will look back and
see that walls have been broken down, and God’s kingdom came here as is it in
I leave you with this quote from the book that I am reading
and rereading by Alan Briggs, Staying is
the New Going, For God’s work to become
tangible, it must become local, invading our everyday thinking and the places
This is a hard to write, but heartfelt, prayerful and hopefully helpful. To bring glory to my Jesus who is at work in my life and in the lives of those around me.
Over the last few months, there has been some pretty significant things take place that have laid heavy on my heart and mind. In the middle of each one, I have had to ask the Lord, where do you want me to move, go and do in this season.
Often times during these times of prayer it was met with silence. Those silent moments were scary, a little angry filled and doubtful. I needed God to show up and I felt like he had turned his back. Now, I know that isn’t the case but my heart was just in turmoil.
Over the next few days and weeks, One thing after another kept piling on the stack. You know how it is when you ignore the mail pile on your dining room table for awhile- its starts to be an eyesore and overwhelming. That is how this was. One thing after another piling on the heaviness of my heart.
I found myself faced with the very real realities of being woman in man’s world. The rules are different for us, no matter how much “they” say they aren’t. I found myself once again questioning and wondering is this worth it? I can love people and share Jesus without this title, and often times I think it would be better and easier too. I sincerely wonder how loyalty to anything, anyone, or organization is worth it. And realizing my loyalty to Jesus is all that matters these days. No matter what others say or do.
The contrast of the shiny title and worn reality of wearing the title. One Bible is the Bible I received when I was ordained, while the other is the one is in my hands everyday. Written in, highlighted, it bears the marks and the tears.
People you love and you have invested in walk out of your life and out of your church. You not only do you get deleted but you get blocked- to try to be erased from the lives of people.
It has been said that I need to celebrate the victories more, so I have been trying to celebrate what is good and awesome in this season. Spending more time reflecting on the pieces of what I need to be thankful for. And there is a lot. I have an amazing husband and marriage. 4 great children, and a growing church. I am thankful.
But there is also the challenges layered between all of it. Changes, burdens, unanswered questions and prayers. So once again, I found myself in the dark place that I had visited 8 years ago. Depression and anxiety have a way of creeping up on you when you aren’t looking.
So to admit that, brings with it fear. Fear that yes Female leaders are weak and this is what happens. That I will now be seen as a weak leader/pastor who can’t handle it all. That I will be seen as a quitter. That somehow in the middle of all of this- all things will fall apart.
This has led to some serious health concerns and a night stand filled with medicine bottles- a nightly reminder that something is broken, and unhealthy right now. And all though the hope is that it is all stressed related and once we get that figured out the rest will be better, there are still test to run, pills to swallow and details to work out.
What do you do when the last hard five years come crashing down on you? How do you take your mind down the path of healing, reconciling and freedom when for five years you have just kept going pushing hard just to prove,
that you could
that you were worthy.
What happens when you look back and you admit that people and organizations let you down and elevated people who hid sins of others and dealt with the sins of others behind closed doors, while their victims lay in the ruin and the mess. What do you do when you see leadership lie, change their story, and bully others around, while others know and see and just respond with, well hopefully in the future it won’t be like this anymore. What happens when you think people are your friends but you realize it is one sided? Or you just aren’t needed in their life?
Lessons that I am learning in this season are hard, fought for and challenging to say the least. A scripture kept coming up…
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Normally the part of this scripture that sticks out to us is the first part, Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid. And normally I cling to that… but lately its the last part of the scripture that has been speaking to me. God is with you wherever you go… But what happens when God calls us to Go and it doesn’t quite make sense. Because honestly right now, I don’t want to be strong and courageous.
The past 5 years God has called me to Go in a lot of ways I didn’t quite understand and if I would have been scripting my story, well I would have scripted it differently. I would have had less go in the story and more stay. Maybe you can relate?
Over the past few months, God has been stirring in me what I will respectfully call a holy discomfort in my heart. There is a lot of changes going on around me. But I am finding that God is moving me from where I am now to something deeper. If I am honest, he has been pointing out the parched places of my soul. He has been stirring in me a need to regain some spiritual footing, and work toward health and wholeness. He has been pointing out the places that I need to surrender, the things (or people) I need to forgive and confess my lack of trust.
I just thought by now, at 41 I would have my life a little more figure out and a little more settled. But maybe it is 41 that brings that. As I dig, climb and search my way out of this darkness back into God’s light, I don’t have to do it alone. I am reminded of Paul’s words found in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 MSG.
It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.
These battles I am facing our ones that will only be won on my knees. These battles are fought with tools that clear the ground of every obstruction to build lives of obedience.
What I also can say with confidence is that I love Jesus more than I ever have. I am broken, messy and so far from perfect I can’t even see perfection on the dial. But in the midst of that, I am his daughter and that is enough.
Recently I had the opportunity to do something I have never done, and that was visit the Bahamas. First of all, let me start by saying that the ocean in the Bahamas does not even come close to comparing to the Ocean in my normal spots ( Florida and New Jersey). It was breathtaking. However, I didn’t expect some of the things I encountered. Some seem silly now that I look back and think about them.
I found that as Jason and I started to walk out into the ocean, we encountered the coral reef, which is not comfortable to walk on. I kept thinking, “wow I wish I had some kind of shoe on so this wouldn’t hurt so bad.” And as we walked Jason kept leading me deeper and deeper into the water. Before too long, I was standing on my tip toes just to keep my head above water. My heart begins to pound, and fear begins to take over. I said to Jason, “Hey maybe we should go back to the beach.” He assured me we were fine, and I quote “Gina, Just relax!”
Let me pause right there, relax seems like a far-fetched idea that I like to think about and say that one day I will do but in practice, relax isn’t something I do well. Just ask the Chiropractor and the people who have tried to give me a massage. Where they tell me over and over “relax”.
So here we are in the most beautiful place I have been in my life, the water is clear I can see the fish swimming around me. I am with my favorite person and I am filled with fear! Then Jason has a brilliant idea. He thinks we should just lay on our backs and float. So… he attempts to help me with this. This becomes a comical scene in which I am sure everyone around us thinks I am crazy. (which we know already!) Jason finally lets go, and there I am floating in the Ocean looking up at the beautiful blue sky with traces of white clouds. It was then I heard His Voice (at first it sounded a lot like Jason- when he said “Gina’s that is what God wants to do for you!) As my heart begin to settle, God in his love for me- spoke.
In His still small voice, spoke my name. He began to break down some things that I had been struggling with and he ask me again- “Gina do you trust me? Do you trust me with your future? Your children? Your ministry? Do you really trust me to lead you and hold you when you feel like you will sink?”
The song Oceans came to my mind…
You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand
And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now
So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
Before too long the laughter turned to tears as my tears rolled into the deep ocean. I floated for a few more minutes. And we began to make our way back to the beach. I wish I could tell you that I was relaxed and filled with a renew trust. Instead I knew that this was the beginning of some work I needed to do. Or maybe perhaps a better way to say it would be work that God needed to do in me.
In Philippians 1:6 it says this promise to us… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. God is faithful to complete his work in us.
And as we were walking back to the beach, we encountered that reef again. God reminded me- Gina you can swim. You don’t have to walk over this painful part- you can swim. It was such a profound moment for me. I started to swim. Something I hadn’t done in years. Something that I hadn’t found the time for, or thought I was good at. And instead of walking over the pain, I swam through it. Its funny the things we walk through that if we would just relax we could swim over.
This time in the Ocean- is still working in me. I believe God was preparing me for what was to come. Since I have come home, two people I loved have passed away. I have had to deal with family situations that were hard and continue to need wisdom, grace and courage. Professionally and in my ministry, there are things that have come up that I wasn’t prepared for and have sent me to my knees desperately seeking the One who calls me my name in the middle of the Ocean and sees me in the turmoil of my realities.
I came across a scripture again that I have read many times found in 1 Thessalonians 5. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil. 23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
Some great truths to remember there. But then verse 24- the One who calls you (me) is faithful- and HE WILL DO IT!
He has called me- and he made no mistake by calling me by name. And he is faithful. He will do it. I must rejoice always, pray, give thanks accept his will for me. I am who he says I am not who any one in this world says I am… and as he has confirmed so many times in my life. I am his masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10)
I have more questions than answers tonight. I find myself typing this out with tears streaming down my face, and my chest feels so tight I think I might choke. I don’t understand and trust me, I get I don’t have to understand. I found myself today saying something I have said to a 100 people… our circumstances don’t take God by surprise! but man do they take us by surprise? I found myself angry, confused, tired, and ready to give up. And while all those emotions are still circling around my heart and mind I have to see them as they are… as emotions- feelings.
And I am wresting with what God is doing in this season. Pastors wrestle too. Pastors have bad days and bad weeks. We get overwhelmed and tired. Don’t worry I have heard from the Pastors who say they don’t or if you do then somehow you don’t love your job or aren’t called… or whatever else. But the reality is… I am fully human, I just happened to be a pastor. No superpowers here. Just a 40 year old wife, mom and pastor who every day is trying to figure this thing out called life. Every day wondering and praying I made the right decisions and discerned the right way the voice of Jesus.
And I am sick to death of the voices in my head, and the social media interactions, and the lack of return calls and messages being okay. Because they aren’t. I am sick of bantering be kind, stop the division, have healthy relationships, surrender all to God, because it is all his anyway, when none of it seems to matter…
Tomorrow will be better- I will be able to go through all my emotions, and questions and hopefully surrender and silence all the voices and chatter that doesn’t belong to God…until then I’ll soak up the birds chirping, the sunset and my favorite people in the world.
I found a piece of art recently and hung it in on my wall- it simply said “she designed the life she loved.” Everyday I look at it and it reminds me I have choices to make. Choices to make that will help me live a life I love. There are so many things I love! But the reminder each day staring at me helps me make choices that help create spaces and places for those things I love.
Over the past few months I have been processing through quite a bit. My reading list has included, Present Over Perfect, Breaking Busy, Uninvited, Surrender, High Impact Leader, Strengthening the Soul of your Leadership… just to name a few. They all have similar themes and through it I have found myself working on some things. Praying over even more and being pretty vulnerable before the Lord.
A couple of post ago I talked about doing something new, it was coming but I never fully said what it was. And the reality is the new thing is a work in progress, and it is slow and it takes some blood, sweat and tears. It is adding in something while subtracting some others. It is asking the right questions at the right time and being okay with whatever the answers are.
You see designing the life I love is a whole lot of being okay with things when they don’t go as planned. Finding the high road when life comes at you in waves of things that are hard, heartbreaking and amazing all at once. Designing a life you love is realizing that I control very little and trusting in the One who does it control it all.
In the process of all of that and turning 40 this year I am ready to conquer somethings on my list that have been there for way to long. I am giving up on some of the list and throwing them out. But the things that remain I am embracing in a new way, a new passion.
I am seeking the Lord with a new desire to be who he has called me to be- not anyone else. Because anyone else I try to be will not be all that God has called me too.
In the meantime, I struggle with the tension of where I am and where I am going. I wrestle with the tension of is and what will be. I embrace the tension that grows my faith and makes me a better version of myself.
What happened to us? Most days I feel like I live a in parallel universe. There is no respect for anyone or anything. Name calling and mud slinging are the normal behavior. We post it on our social media, we scream it on the corners and we march down the streets. We don’t listen to anyone who thinks differently than us because they are stupid. We live in fear of what if’s and what’s next. We live in fear of being honest with our thoughts or feelings in fear of being labeled something we are not.
Division is all around us, and it’s not new. I get that. What I don’t get is us, the church. We seem to be just as scared as those who don’t claim to be the church. We throw insults and naming call like it’s our right to do. I am white so that must make me white privileged. Which means I must be racist, a bigot, a homophobe and against all immigration just to name a few…in case you are wondering, I don’t like being labeled or called names.
If I think we should respect each other regardless of where we find ourselves in this mess we call a political arena then I simply don’t understand what is going on around me. I see one group of Christians post negative comments and disrespect toward the president elect and incoming administration.
I see another group post against current President and administration. There are too many direct quotes to put them all here…
I know, freedom of speech… I get it! I am thankful for it. It’s why I can write and post a blog. It’s why I can stand on a stage each week and speak freely. But where does that freedom become dangerous? When words hurt and destroy and create division. Is that what Jesus stood for? I thought he came to reconcile…
Then I hear the fears of a mom who adopted children from Mexico. Her adult children, who served in the military, being harassed by people on the street saying they were going to be sent back to where they belong. This is not okay! This is wrong! Please stop!
I have dinner with a family who immigrated here many years ago and hear their stories of sacrifice to give up everything to come to America.
I am not excusing bad behavior but both political parties are full of bad behavior, name calling and disrespect. Can we please not model this in the church? My hope has never been in the President of the United States. Some presidential elections the candidate of my choice wins while other times they don’t. I have not taken to the streets to protest. I have not called my neighbors names because they didn’t agree with me, and I for sure did not offer up disrespect for those who hold the office. I might not agree but it doesn’t give me the right to lay down what it means to be Christlike. I ask myself often, do I want to be right… or do I want a relationship with that person? And frankly I want the relationship. I want people to see Jesus, and he modeled respect, love, forgiveness. He said to pray for those in authority over us. Pray! It is really hard to pray for someone you are bad mouthing on the side, and it’s really hard to continue to bad mouth someone you are spending time in prayer for.
Hillary Clinton was not the hope of this world! Donald Trump is not the hope of this World! Jesus Christ is! And the church I serve has let me down and left me disillusioned in what our calling is. Then I remind myself I serve the God of the universe, he is the One who saved me, transformed me and called me by name. I rest in that!
My prayer tonight is that healing will begin. That we will fervently pray for neighbors, for our new President and his family. That we will pray that those things that have been broken by this election season will be healed. That all people will see Jesus flowing from those of us who call ourselves Christ Followers. That the Church will be the church, feeding the hungry, caring for the widows and the orphans, sharing the gospel of Jesus.
I have said it often that time goes very quickly. Sometimes when I turn another month in my calendar and see the year splashed at the top I can’t believe it. 2016. Jason and I have been married for 21 years and have found ourselves in some form of ministry or another for 19 of those. Some of those years have been served through local churches and some of it through non profits.
The reality is ministry is hard. When we started this road we neither one knew where it would lead. Jason was confident that his role in the local church was to support it – have a corporate America job and support the local church with giving and volunteering. I thought my job was a wife and mom. I believed in the local church, no matter how broken and messy it seemed to be at times. I would always be involved and be willing to walk wherever I was asked.
I didn’t ever see women lead anything but Children’s/Youth/Women/Worship. I didn’t see women pastors taking up the leadership role in our churches. So in my mind I was a woman and I could support, be a side kick, but never give leadership and vision. And really for the most part that was okay with me. I was doing what God had called me to: a wife and mom… children’s pastor, non-profit founder and PTA vice president. It was all good. Until it wasn’t…
When God calls us to something we have no choice but to walk in obedience. I remember the pull of my heart to go back to local church ministries after a few years away from it. It didn’t make sense. Everything was going okay I thought, but this desire for more, to reach more families and more people for Jesus, was growing. The kids were getting bigger, my role as mom was changing, and I was seeking God to discern what was next. That story is long and someday I will write it here but for now I will just say in that process God called me to be a pastor. To step out of my comfort zone into the unknown, to walk in obedience, surrendered to whatever His will was and would be.
Jason’s journey to ministry is different than mine, and I think he will be a guest writer on here very soon, so he can share it. Because it’s important to know why we are here in Allentown, PA. The details are nothing short of God designed moments, ordained long before Jason and I even knew.
That brings me to today. Last week we launched a new service at Trinity. In two short years, God has been blessing and expanding our church. People are coming to know Jesus. The de-churched and the un-churched are finding a place they can be in community and hear God’s Word and ask questions about this man, Jesus. God is at work. And when God is moving, we also see the attacks of Satan.
John 10:10 tells us “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
And that is our mission: to lead one percent of the Lehigh Valley to a full life in Christ. And we know that on the way we encounter the attempts of the thief to steal, kill and destroy… but we must stand united in our mission to keep pressing forward so that God’s kingdom is expanded and He receives all glory and honor! We have the hope and holiness this world so desperately needs! The hope and holiness we so desperately need! It is not us against them! It is us fighting for them.
Is growth and change hard? Absolutely! Is community messy? You bet! But church, if we can vow to stay together and value and love people, we can be a change agent in the Lehigh Valley. It will be uncomfortable. It will push us outside of ourselves and our own four walls. But on the other side of uncomfortable is eternal impact!
There are times as the pastor, as your pastor, I can sense your questions and fears. And I bring those to the Lord. I know that it will take us being bold and courageous to walk the obedience that God has called us to. I also know that God never intended the church to be a holy huddle of believers. The church, you and me, were called to reach those who are spiritually unresolved and bring them to Jesus. No one is exempt from that calling. Every week you and I should be sharing our faith with someone who doesn’t know Jesus. That means people who probably don’t think like you, look like you or act like you. It will mean building relationships and inviting people into your life so that you can show them truly and authentically who Jesus is.
But that’s just it… faith is taking risk. Faith is more than just saying a prayer and reading your Bible. Faith is believing in things you can’t see. It is walking outside of what you are comfortable with and doing things that God has called you to! Faith will be risky, and messy…
It means we will change our methods of reaching people, but we will NEVER change the message! Jesus Christ died on a cross, rose from the grave to reconcile us back to His Father. Our message is clear! Our methods are changing but God is moving. You are part of a movement of God, and He has called you for this time and place.
Look around this coming Sunday – whichever service you are in – and talk to someone you haven’t met yet. Invite them to coffee, or your life group, or to dinner. Walk through the doors expecting what God is going to do and worship Him with a heart of gratitude. Be grateful that you get a front row seat to life transformation!
Do not sit on the sidelines anymore. Join the team! Be part of it. Serve in Kidventure. Volunteer with Pulse. Be a greeter, or usher, or work in the cafe. Sign up for a Life Group at our Get Connected event this week or next. Invite your neighbor, your co worker, or that mom in the grocery store to join you.
Trinity, thank you for taking a risk on the Colburns two years ago. Thank you for allowing the leadership to dream big, God-sized dreams to reach the Lehigh Valley. Thank you for being open and willing to allow God to move us out of our comfort zone into this next chapter. I can’t wait to see what God is going to do in us and through us in the weeks ahead. I can’t wait to hear the many God stories of life transformation. Don’t miss it! We need you! I need you! The Lehigh Valley needs you!
Let’s reach the One Percent of the Lehigh Valley united together for His Kingdom’s sake…