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Untangling the cords…

Recently, I found myself fighting with a tangled vacuum cord. Have you ever wrested with a tangled cord? Wondering how something could become so tangled? The more I wrested with it, the worse it seemed to get. I yanked, I pulled, with little change in how tangled it had become. 

I became very frustrated and before too long I realized that it wasn’t really the vacuum cord. It was feeling like all of life is a tangled mess that has to be wrestled with. Can anyone say 2020? 

Finally, I slowed down, and calmly worked to get the cord untangled so it would be usable again. As I finished vacuuming the carpet and wrapped the cord once again, I wonder how many times we get frustrated with the tangles in our lives, and if we would just slow down we could untangle it a whole quicker. 

The image of the tangled cord stayed with me most of they day, as it seemed I rushed from one tangled mess to the next. Becoming frustrated and weary of how so many things could become so tangled.  It doesn’t take long for us to realize that our world is pretty tangled. One side or the other  has a way to untangled it, so they yank and pull. Mean while the knot in the middle grows tighter. 

I spend a lot of time trying to fix tangled messes. It seems like there is never a shortage. In the Psalms David spends a lot of time writing out his petitions to the Lord. Some of those Psalms he wrote during some pretty big tangled messes, some of those messes he created himself, and others were brought on by others.  

After my battle with the tangled cord, my heart went to the words of David, written in the book of Psalms. 

But deal well with me, O Sovereign Lord, for the sake of your own reputation! Rescue me because you are so faithful and good. For I am poor and needy, and my heart is full of pain. Ps. 109: 21-22 

I felt like the Lord was saying, “let me untangle the mess because I am faithful and good. My strength and reputation is far greater and reaches beyond what you can imagine…”

I let the words soak in for a few minutes. I realized sometimes tangled cords/messes aren’t ours to untangle. But it is our job to slow down, and listen to the Lord. Often times in the hustle and bustle of life we try to push, pull and hurry through the tangles, when really he is just asking us to let him handle it and rest in him. 

If we want to become usable again, we have to become untangled. It usually takes some time and  we remain calm. But on the other side of mess, is a story still waiting to be written. 

So, if you are feeling a little like a tangled mess today, go ahead, take a big breath and let Him untangle the cord…

 

 

 

Numbers: Do They Matter?

Numbers: Do They Matter?

Written by Gina Colburn

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.

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Untangling the cords…

Recently, I found myself fighting with a tangled vacuum cord. Have you ever wrested with a tangled cord? Wondering how something could become so tangled? The more I wrested with it, the worse it seemed to get. I yanked, I pulled, with little change in how tangled it...

read more

Numbers: Do They Matter?

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,...

read more

Running right out of comfort…

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...

read more

Running right out of comfort…

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! 

Didn’t Go As Planned Life…

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.

This Is Our City

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 other groups.

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 heaven.

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 we inhabit.

His kingdom comes here…in our city through us!