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Posts Tagged ‘fear’


A church building project is like a roller coaster. This metaphor fits lots of things (pastoral searches come to mind) but I am reminded of the Hulk coaster at Islands of Adventure in Orlando. The first time I rode it I did not realize the climb to the top of the first hill was not a slow climb but that you were rocketed up the second half of the hill. It didn’t slow down after that.

I’m not sure which coaster this project reminds me of most. There have been plenty of twists and turns, and a few loops too. Since we approved the project as a congregation there have been a few changes we did not expect.

All was going well as we wrapped up a few things before I left on vacation. While our Treasurer dealt with our bank I pursued some alternative methods of financing. The loan officer for a group that loans to churches and ministries that is based in California happened to be in Tucson, just down the street. We had a quick meeting so he could see the dimensions of our project and get us started on the process.

We also had a meeting over lunch (during which I ordered that huge shrimp chimi enchilada style) with the modular company to do the “red line” and then sign. They came up with a lease to own option just in case we had problem with getting a loan. Our Treasurer, rightfully, wanted to make sure we didn’t end up owing money we didn’t have before signing off.

We did expect the Fire Marshal to retire, but not as soon as he did. Suddenly we are dealing with a new fire marshal who may interpret the rules differently. As a result we weren’t sure if the new guy would want the sprinkler risers to be inside the building since they were currently outside. There is a 3 week delay, minimum in the building of the modular right off the bat. Our plans to have it ready to go for the start of the new ministry year which begins early August.

We also learned that the county, based on the size of the modular, needed to have a civil engineer examine the drainage. Big waste of money, most likely, since that part is flat anyway. It is not placed in the path of a drainage path. The money we recouped by not having to bring the sprinkler pipes under the road just got used.

With these delays to the modular, the contractor wants to start on the renovation. The sequence has been changed, and I (we?) were not prepared for that. It is fairly difficult to adjust when you are on vacation. My office will be moved in my absence. Question is, should we start the remodel before we know we have the permitting for the modular. If we don’t get the permitting we wouldn’t have space for Sunday School classes. We are on the horns of a dilemma I tell you.

The renovation started early as the palo verde tree in front of the entrance split and fell to the ground. Termites got to it, and hopefully haven’t wrecked havoc on the building.

It is hard to deal with the feelings of powerlessness. Everything is out of my control. I’m not there to guide and lead. I’m stuck a few thousand miles away. Apparently movers will pack up my office and put it in the annex. I’m not sure what will be available except for what is on my library cart. So I asked for a few books having to do with the book I’m writing to be added to the cart.

There is also disappointment. I learned the bank we use turned us down for a loan because we weren’t large enough. Who cares if you can afford it! It is easy to get frustrated with the sense of injustice due to arbitrary guidelines.

I expect to be in shock when I show up and see all the change that has happened in my absence. It may be like returning home after Hurricane Charley raced through Winter Haven while we were on vacation. Things will be different and we are not sure when it will all be done. We are beginning the Exodus of sorts and an wilderness journey. Our facilities will be under construction around us as we worship each Sunday. We await our arrival into a better land with more seats and more Sunday School room. Hopefully it will not prove too great a challenge as we face unexpected obstacles. Pray for us.

 

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It seems like so much has happened since our first congregational meeting on this topic in December. There have been plenty of changes in the plans and dollar figures. One of our members, a retired OPC elder, noted that with building projects you should double the figure and add 10%. He was about right as we went from Dec. to mid-May.

What are we doing?

At some point I’ll put a link to some graphics but here is the rundown.

  1. Adding a triple-wide modular (new) that will provide office space, a new nursery and SS space.
  2. The office space will be converted into sanctuary space. We estimate adding 60-70 seats. We can’t fully utilize that space or we’d have to retro fit with sprinklers, so we’ll actually have some storage space for chairs/tables/instruments depending on the use of the sanctuary space at any given time.
  3. The “overflow room”/SS room will be converted into a new ladies’ room where they shouldn’t have to worry about the door knocking their knees every time they enter/leave a stall.
  4. The old ladies room will be converted into a men’s room so we can have more than one guy in there at a time (up to 3).
  5. The old men’s room will become a family/ADA restroom that can handle busy bathroom times.
  6. Part of the covered sidewalk at the entrance will be walled in to create a foyer or narthex. There will be double doors to enter the sanctuary space so there will be more noise insulation for bathrooms and crying/naughty children.
  7. We will reorganize our largely haphazard parking to accommodate more cars in a more organized and functional fashion.

We are looking at about a $370k project and a sizeable loan to fund it. We do have nearly 1/2 of the funds already but taking out a loan is a big deal. We cannot wait until we have the money in hand because we will soon stagnate and/or shrink if history repeats itself. We are past the comfort zone of capacity and that is okay in the short run, but a church that is too “full” will usually shrink back to comfort (and often beyond as some people misinterpret the departures).

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Peter Hubbard, like Jesus, is not content for us to merely be gracious to homosexuals in Love Into Light. He’s not content to change the climate in the church regarding people who struggle with same sex attraction (SSA). He wants repentant, believing strugglers to be a focus of outreach and part of our community.

This doesn’t happen accidentally. We need to be wise in how we live in community and go about outreach. In talking about community, he starts with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which is a pretty good place to start. Community is important, essential, but it can often be idolatrous too.

“The one who pursues community to escape loneliness is trying to escape from himself.”

I’ve seen that happen. I’ve experienced that to an extent. We just experience the loneliness, and don’t really understand what is going on in the heart. We should not forget that we are made in the image of God, however. As a result, we were made for relationship; for community. God is the eternal community of Father, Son & Spirit living in loving harmony. We were made for that. We also recognize that each person within the Godhead is differentiated. They have a sense of self. Loneliness can be a sign that we don’t have a strong sense of self, or enjoy being by ourselves.

“So in one sense we don’t need each other (God is enough). Yet in another sense we desperately need each other (He reveals Himself to us in community).”

Many people in the church who struggle with SSA often agonize alone. They fear rejection, if people knew. They need the acceptance of the group, and the group needs their honesty. This is a hindrance to community if there are any sins that are kept private. We don’t let anyone into our hearts and are … alone.

He relates how his congregation had a frank discussion of homosexuality. It prompted one member to think more deeply about their sin, and how it was “natural” to them- meaning they had a predisposition to anxiety.

“I”m being challenged to realize that we all may have something in our ‘nature’ that is sin, and we cannot choose to condone our own sin, even though we have a propensity for it. He have to fight against it as the Holy Spirit frees us from it.”

Community deepens as we recognize this fact about ourselves. If we do, we see that while their sin is different in the details, it is not different in kind. If worry is 2nd nature to you, a life-dominating sin, you can understand what it would be like to continually be attracted to the same sex. Just try to a second to consider what it would be like to know that your very attractions are wrong. Every day presents numerous opportunities to stumble in your heart. Of course, even heterosexuals face this as our hearts are tempted to move beyond fidelity, lusting for our neighbor’s spouse or a single person.

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Where I live now isn’t like where I lived immediately before this. It isn’t about geography, or the population. There are many differences between here and there. One significant difference is its view of homosexuality.

There homosexuality was still in the closet. We knew someone whose son is a homosexual in a long term relationship with another man. Everyone pretty much knew, but they were considered “friends” for the sake of other family members. I really don’t recall seeing any homosexual couples expressing affection while I lived there.

Where I live now is known, so I’m told, as a popular place for lesbians to live. In the last month I’ve seen 2 different couples expressing affection. First, I was picking my family up at the airport and 2 reunited women had a few kisses. I was hoping my kids didn’t notice because I’m not sure I’m ready to have that conversation that HGTV wants to make me have. Last night 2 younger women made out briefly in the restaurant I went to.

In some communities, particular lifestyles are still closeted. In others, people are quite open. In the church, some sins are still closeted. Peter Hubbard considers this question after realizing that in all the years of testimonies he’d heard, he couldn’t remember anyone including SSA as part of that testimony.

Hubbard has a few theories in the first chapter of Love Into Light: The Homosexual and the Church. He also refutes each of these theories with the gospel.

Possibility #1: Homosexuals are not like us; they are “abnormal.” The church has often made this argument. We shouldn’t wonder why people don’t want to confess this particular sin in our congregations. They are (often for good reason) afraid they will be rejected.

“He couldn’t wait any longer for me to reject him, so he rejected himself for me.”

I’ve had people admit to having an abortion, giving up a child to adoption and addiction to pornography. Not homosexual porn however. I’ve had women admit to me that they’d been sexually abused. But no men (at least with me as their pastor).

I have had a few people admit to profound sins. One recognized at the end of our counseling session that they had crossed the Tiber so to speak. Fearing I’d never look at them the same way, and always have questions about them, they left the church. Right there, right then. One hung around for awhile, but I wonder if they were trying to get me to reject them in the months that came. Or perhaps they assumed I was rejecting them as a result of that confession when other issues were in play. People expect to be rejected and create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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I realized that I missed a few of the common Mistakes Leaders Make. Time to flip back and address this mistake of my own.

He tells the story of the church treasurer to discuss how financial frugality, instead of fearless faith, can cripple a church.

¬†Balance is a tricky thing. I’ve seen churches, on the basis of faith, make horrendous financial decisions. They take on debt which ends up crippling future ministry because the church doesn’t grow like they hoped it would.

I know of a church that did a large addition that was essentially a visitor center with a huge waterfall. The pastor pushed it through without the support of the people (it was a Baptist church). Soon giving was down and staff members were having to leave. The last one to leave was the pastor who created the mess.

He tells the story of a church that started an ambitious building project. The shell of that building stood for years. It was never completed, and it killed the church.

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I guess it was the Super Bowl that reminded me of a gift I once got for Christmas. It was a Patriots’ uniform, with pads, helmet, jersey and pants. It wasn’t really designed for a real game. But in my young mind I looked cool. I would put it on and play in our finished basement. I would toss a football to myself, trying not to skid it off the suspension ceiling. I imagined playing in the big game (at this point in time the Patriots hadn’t even been to a Super Bowl, much less won one). In my fantasy, I never failed.

It was the same when practicing baseball or basketball. I always caught the final out. If I missed the jump shot, miraculously there were another few seconds to hit the game winner. I suspect I was no different than any other kid growing up. That is the nature of fantasy- you always win the game. As we grow up the fantasy changes- you always get the girl or the really cool job.

But real life was different. When you were playing for real you were afraid you would strike out, miss the shot, or drop the ball. Not all of us are as crippled by that fear as one of the kids in the movie Parenthood. Steve Martin’s character was vexed by his son’s struggles, probably because he didn’t want his son to grow up like him- living in fear of failure and settling for a life of minimal risk.

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In the course of ministry, hard spots are inevitable. It could be a set back, a conflict or perhaps an illness. They cannot be avoided. They are part of the providence of God. They are for your sanctification.

Do you remember that often? I mean between the whining, complaining and the pity parties you throw. We all do that. But do we remember they are intended for our maturity?

 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1 (ESV)

How is that, you might ask. One important thing is perseverance. James 1 points all Christians in this direction. Pastors are no exception from that instruction. We should not be surprised when the hard spots hit. Pastors, just like lay people, will have their faith tested in order to produce steadfastness, otherwise known as perseverance. There can be no maturity without perseverance. You can’t excel at anything without perseverance. Ask any great musician. Ask a woodworker or a computer programmer. Perseverance through boredom (that’s been a tough one for me), pain, disappointment and more.

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