Tag Archives: Christian Church

Tell it to the Church Matthew 18

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit, we take this time to remember those who died in the attacks of September 11, 2001 and for the comfort and peace of their families in at this time. We all joined together and said … AMEN!

We lift up in prayer all those in Florida, in the path of the next hurricane, we pray they are kept safe and that minimal damage is done. We thank you Father that the people in Puerto Rico were spared serious damage. We also remember Houston and pray that they continue to recover. Most of us remember well the attacks of 9/11, we certainly know of the war that continues in Afghanistan, although we may not know of a lot of the other activity that has occurred to stop terrorism and to break up and bring to justice those who would murder and destroy for their own purposes, for their own glory and do it in the Name of God. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit does not inflict violence. Only the love of the true God which moves us to know and grow in Him and for those who do not know Him, He continues to move them to focus on Him and His true life here, salvation in heaven and eternal life in the resurrection. Help us to know Him in His love and relationship to Jesus, His Church and His people, in true, everlasting life and love.

Dr Martin Luther writes: “The amaranth is a flower …[which] is easily broken off and grows in joyful and pleasant sort… being sprinkled with water, becomes fair and green again, so that in winter they used to make garlands thereof. It is called amaranth from this: that it neither withers or decays.

I know nothing more like unto the church than this flower, amanranth. For although the church bathes her garment in the blood of the Lamb and is colored over with red, yet she is more fair, comely, and beautiful than any state and assembly upon the face of the earth. She alone is embraced and beloved of the Son of God, as His sweet and amiable spouse, in whom only He takes joy and delight and whereupon His heart alone depends. He utterly rejects and loathes others that condemn or falsify His Gospel.[1]

A couple of times a year we step outside the walls of our stunning sanctuary. We do all we can to share this church and this great monument to our Lord Jesus Christ. To invite our neighbors, family and friends who do not know Jesus and His church. We have been given a great gift, to be saved in Jesus and in that salvation to be a member of His church. Not everyone who is saved is part of such a magnificent testament and monument to Jesus. Too many think that, by choice, a place that is simple and does not have anything to really honor Him or even remind those who are there that this is supposed to be a place to honor and worship our Lord and to show the world how important Jesus is. Too many in our culture today are more concerned with makes them happy, they’re really not concerned about honoring or worshipping Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Until such time, of course, when it’s very obvious that they need God and expect Him, and yes, His Church to be there for them. We who faithfully serve Jesus’ church know how difficult it is to maintain this place of worship and that it may not always be there.

Many love to tell us how enlightened they are because they’ve made up their mind that the church is wherever they decide it should be. The snarky remarks about worshipping on the golf course, at the beach, some have told me drinking or even taking drugs. They claim that is their form of worship. We live in a truly delusional society that thinks it’s all about them and can make reality any way it pleases them. Those are the same ones who when all is said and done; “will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:12) The same phrase Matthew quotes Jesus as using in Matthew 13:42, 13:58, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30. “Omaha” Jesus makes it plain the fate of those who reject Jesus and His Church. It is a combo package, you can’t have a church that doesn’t accept Jesus, it’s not a church that will save you. Likewise you can’t have Jesus and not the church. The Church is the Body of Christ on earth, to be in Christ is to be a part of the Body of Christ which is saved to the eternal resurrection. You have to be a part of the Body of Christ, His church.

In two places Jesus refers to His church. “ESV Matthew 16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And in today’s reading: “ESV Matthew 18:17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Despite what today’s culture likes to think, it is plain that Jesus’ purpose was for His church to do His will on earth. Not for everyone to have their own little worship of whatever I want or makes me happy. In today’s reading Jesus makes it very plain that, yes we are to judge. Not in a pharisaical, harsh way, but in a way that is trying to get the person back into a right relationship with Jesus and His Church. That is what excommunication is about. Not to be punitive or flex ecclesial muscles, but to make it plain that someone’s lifestyle; abusing others, undermining Jesus’ church and ministry, sexual sin, coveting after the things of the world, abusing God and His Name, murder, stealing, lying, that all these things are not acceptable in the Church of Jesus and won’t be tolerated. That the person committing those sins isn’t being judged, as much as condemning him or her own self by their actions. The church’s job is to call them to account on their sin and if he refuses to listen to a brother or sister in Jesus, then to three or more, then as Jesus says: “…if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” (Matt 18:18) The church is given the power to judge, as Jesus goes on to say, what we call “the keys of the church”: “whatever you [meaning the church body] bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Whatever you as the church, truly functioning in good faith, good intentions, truly trying to redirect those who by their actions and rejection of My, Jesus’, Church, won’t listen “even to the church”, note the emphasis. Ok, it’s one thing not to listen to your neighbor, or maybe 3 people from the church, but when the entire church, that you won’t listen to the entire church! Ok, then the church in My authority as Lord of the church, tell you that you should treat this person as a Gentile and tax collector. In the context of the time the most damning condemnation one could make. The lowest person in Jewish society at the time was a Gentile or tax collector. Don’t have anything to do with them, except that you reach out in prayer, love and compassion, always doing what you can to restore them to the church.

This arrogant attitude we have today, really idolatry, that is making oneself the object of worship when you claim that “oh I worship on the beach, the golfcourse”. The attitude being that worship, if any, is going to be on my terms, my time, place, emotion. As if God’s supposed to follow you around like a puppy dog hoping that you will deign to privilege Him with your attention. Doesn’t work that way, that is arrogance, self-worship, quoting CFW Walther: “…pious speech without a living and believing heart in one accord is nothing before God except a hypocritical abomination. Christian fellowship is founded on the promise from Christ Himself, as our text makes irrefutably certain. No Christian can say: ‘I prefer to remain alone. Why should I have fellowship? I derive no blessing from it.’ Whoever speaks like this contradicts Christ and questions His faithfulness.”[2] Clearly Jesus means that when two or more are gathered, no one is entitled to set their own rules of worship, and that more than two are intended to come together in true worship.

Dr Luther writes about the church of Jesus Christ: “…She grows and increases again, fair, joyful and pleasant. That is, she gains the greatest fruit and profit thereby; she learns to know God properly, to call upon Him freely and undauntedly, to confess His word and doctrine. She produces many fair and glorious virtues… the church will by God be raised and wakened out of the grace, and become living again. The church will everlastingly praise, extol and laud the Father our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, His Son and our Redeemer, together with the Holy Ghost.”[3]

It is only in the church that there will be everlasting praise of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Only those who have praised, extoled, lauded God in life, will be there to do the same in heaven, and even more so in the resurrection, where we are restored in our bodies to everlasting life in the perfect world that God originally intended for us, to live our life the way we were supposed to live it. Satan, the world will tell any lie to keep you from Jesus’ church, but as Jesus promises: “ESV John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Nothing and no one can give you any hope or promise that truly matters except for Jesus and He does that in and through His Church. Quoting Luther: “…I am not troubled that the world esteems the Church so meanly; what care I that the usurers, the nobility, gentry, citizens, country people, covetous men, and drunkards condemn and esteem me as dirt? In due time, I will esteem them as little. We must not suffer ourselves to be deceived or troubled as to what the world thinks of us. To please the good is our virtue.”[4]

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom        He has risen! He has risen indeed! Hallelujah!

[1] Martin Luther Table Talk Bridge Logos edition p 242

[2] C.F.W Walther quoted in God Grant it Daily Devotionals from CFW Walther edited by Gerhard Grabenhofer p 545

[3] Martin Luther Table Talk Bridge Logos edition p 242, 243

[4] Ibid p 241

Millenials, long on fault finding, short on doing

I shared a post by a “millenial” who wrote, essentially, that the problem with the church was that it was too focused on being the church and wasn’t “serving”enough”. The research today says that “millenials” are motivated to “serve”. OK, they may believe that, but I see little evidence of it and what I see is not very well thought out and is more of a social event and well short of any effective service. Further, it seems as if society as a whole is convinced that the church is just another social service agency.

Well no it’s not.

It is the Body of Christ and is, at least supposed to be, supposed to teach about Christ, how we live the Christian life and how we grow as disciples. Yes, that certainly means to serve, but not to some end that is to self satisfaction, but in how the Holy Spirit moves the disciples of Christ to serve.

The writer had a problem with how too many churches do conduct their ministry more in terms of being a social club. I would agree and the church has been doing that for decades. It’s not so much the church, but telling people what they want to hear, pat them and send them back into the world as clueless as ever. The problem is that such a superficial generation takes every opportunity to deny reality, play the system and not assume any real responsibility, because everyone else should take on responsibility.

So I just wanted to post my comments about the church I’m the pastor of. Surprise, didn’t receive any response. I raised a bunch of questions that I really don’t think the superficial millenial mentality wants to deal with, because then, they’d actually have to do something:

thank you very much for the opportunity to answer you and this blog this is like throwing a dog raw meat. First I did not grow up in the church and yes I’m an old guy and yet I get stereotyped by the culture in general and get shut down without so much as a how do you do. First I have to laugh at the supposition that the church has millions of dollars. Oh I get the accusation but I assure you at least First Saint Johns is living hand to mouth. And yet unlike the critics we are standing on our ear to serve. However we are not a social service agency. We are here to give hope and promise of Jesus to a world with no hope and promise and getting worse. As a pastor of a downtown church I spend a large amount of my time trying to help people, millennials included, whose attitude is just gimme. We have a food bank, we have Grief Share, I’m a chaplain for the police department and have had to comfort people as the result of suicide, victims of crime, parents on the scene of a child who died of a heroin overdose. I am the chaplain at the Lutheran Mission Society that gives clothing to people. We started a community radio station at great time, expense and emotional expense. For a small group with limited resources we have done an enormous amount. We have started an afternoon meal program, a workout area and offer classes in martial arts. We started an employment support group. You know what the response has been from the community? Crickets! I’ve made a few efforts with the public schools and York College to get involvement at a great expense of time (frankly my wife thinks I should spend more time at home) and I assure you I’m a long way from making my first million. I’m sure I was making more in the business world hour to hour and actually had days off and vacation. We have been an open door for so much and again crickets. I’ve had to get up in the middle of the night to be with members and nonmembers undergoing duress. I’m sure the teacher writing this article never had to get up in the middle of the night for a math emergency. Oh I get it there are plenty of pretty suburban, happy clappy churches out there who are just about themselves but sad to say that’s pretty much the way of the society. I wish I had half the time off of a school teacher. I’ve averaged fifty hour weeks 52 weeks a year for seven years in ministry I am regularly exhausted and stressed at less pay then school teachers. Speaking of which we have begged the school dept here to give students the educational opportunity of the radio station that we spent a lot of money we don’t have. We are right across the street from William Penn HS. There’s been talk, but it’s easier for them to just say no. There’s a lot of people out there who love to wag their finger and just don’t know what they’re talking about and don’t care. I would love to have an open forum but I know what would happen. I’d spend a lot of time organizing and being there and no one would show up. I will do it since I’ve been challenged. I’ve been thinking about a “grill the pastor ” for First Friday but like the rest of our attempts no one will show. I was at church at 8:30 this morning went to about 1pm, went out at 4pm to support the Sheriffs canine program who have to raise money they don’t get any government funding, typing this message out at 10pm missing the All Star game and I’m on call for the police dept and what I get for all my trouble is why aren’t I doing more. I will compare my social service and DayTimer with any secular and Christian critic. Oh and we’re also setting up to be a Safe Space for the city and also have Spanish ministry and we’re doing it all on a shoestring budget. Maybe it’s time for the Millenials to put up. What I see from most of society is a lot of complaining and criticism, but very little in terms of action. Anyone who wants to come and talk I welcome the opportunity. But they need to listen too because I have a Masters Degree and extensive life experience. My experience with the culture is there is little background but don’t want to give and take but just want to lecture. I frankly believe they don’t want “give and take” because they have very little background and are used to getting their way, don’t want to give and have very little capacity for critical thinking. I felt this was important, missed most of the basketball game and need to get some sleep because I have an enormous amount to deal with on Monday my “day off”. But hey if someone tells me they will be at First Saint Johns to really talk tomorrow I will be there. And then go home to my wife who will be upset that I’m taking time away from her and not getting any rest. She cares about the stress and fatigue that ministry has been putting on me. Feel free to share this with anyone interested. God bless you and thank you for this opportunity.
…a big issue with church the pastor is supposed to do everything. I’ve been in corporate, operational in the military and ministry has just been a revelation very little support. The 80-20 principle. There are lay people who do provide physical support about 20 percent and the rest attitude is “it’s the pastor s job”. This is usually from people who work 9-5 5 days a week, have no concept of what it’s like to get a 2am phone call to go out in nasty weather to a bad situation for members and nonmembers. It’s the pastors job. People need to get real and lose the attitude and expect someone to come running to them at a moments notice. Maybe there will come a time where you need that attention. Who else comes running out in the middle of the night? But at some point they just might say “can’t do it, exhausted ” I will try to get there by noon. Why not? Every other profession does it or gets paid a lot of extra money for extra attention!
…Oh and if someone wants a mentor I will mentor the heck out of them. Check out my background not many out there with my breadth and depth of life experience and I would be thrilled to share that with anyone. But like all the other things we’ve been doing no one will take me up. It’s easier to criticize and complain then do something. Oh yeah another on my “wish list ” would be to train and coach a triathlon team high school, York College HACC, but I’m not going to hold my breath waiting. Michal Helfreich took a local television station thru the church for them to tape what we’ve been doing and offer. Results? Nil. We have a Men’s Group having an overnight retreat at a lodge here. All guys are welcome but they won’t. Their noses are buried in their phones.

God is merciful, but is paying attention Ezekiel 33: 7-20

[for the audio please click on the above link]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who live and turn from their evil ways said … AMEN

We are in the season of Lent, we should reflect on what our life is about all year long and certainly repent at those times when we have sinned and failed God. Reflection, repentance, are the primary focus of Lent. Today’s readings emphasize that. Most of the Bible is very straightforward, very real in the day to day lives of the people it describes. Many people like the mysticism, the mystery of many other beliefs, just for that reason and dismiss Christianity as being a little too prosaic and not mysterious enough. I disagree, the realness of the Bible, from beginning to end, make it totally relatable, real world, it describes the darkness and sinfulness of a fallen world, and it describes in very gritty, earthy ways many of the people in the Bible. There was little mystical about David, Elijah, Peter, they were very manly-earthy-gritty men, even Jesus. The Bible is not about being mystical, mystery, that so many try to make it out to be, but in some respects it is. There are compelling mysteries in Christian theology: The Trinity, the atonement of Jesus, the virgin birth of Jesus, the resurrection. There are mysteries that we may never understand, but that does not diminish the very straightforward realities of who Jesus is, how we are saved, what the Father does in our lives everyday as we are guided by the Holy Spirit. There are mystical parts to the Bible. Daniel can be, Revelation certainly is, parts of Isaiah. Kenneth Stevenson and Michael Glerup write: “Ezekiel also leaves its mark on the New Testament. The image of Jesus as the Shepherd (Matthew 18: 12-14; John 10: 11-18) finds its inspiration in the prophecy about the shepherds and the sheep (Ezekiel 1: 5-10). Revelation bears several significant traces of the influence of Ezekiel: the vision of the chariot from heaven with the four living creatures (Ezek 40-48; Rev 21-22) … and each book ends with a vision of the new temple.”[1] In our reading today Ezekiel is pretty straight forward, and according to Stevenson and Glerup; “…his teaching about judgment seems at times harsher than the message of Isaiah and Jeremiah.”[2]

Through Ezekiel, Yahweh is pretty tough on Israel and He could be saying essentially the same thing to today’s culture. David Peters writes: “You are no better than the Canaanites. Your father was an Amorite and your mother was a Hittite [reminds me of the Monty Python line Your father was a hamster and your mother smelt of elderberry –mine] You were such an ugly baby they left you out to die.” (Ez 3: 7-9) Peters goes on to write: “This is pretty rough talk coming from the Lord. God compared them to the people for whom they had the least respect – the Samaritans and the Sodoms. This sarcasm attracted the people’s attention and they protested that God was being unfair to them. God replied, “You say, ‘The Lord is being unfair in his assessment of us?!’ Listen to me! You are the ones being unfair not I.’” (Ez 18:25) In a contest as to who is fair, God will always win.”[3]

The most poignant part of the lessons for me is when Ezekiel takes his foot off the gas in the middle of the reading to remind his audience: “As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked should turn from his way and live, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ez 33:11) Who is the “house of Israel” that God is talking to? … Yes, us, we are Israel. Jesus is Israel, we are in Jesus, even 500 years before Jesus, God, through Ezekiel, is talking to us and almost pleading with us. I don’t want to see people die in their sins, I don’t want to see people lost in Hell for eternity, that is horrible, I want you to fear me enough, to know who I am, what I have done for you and for you to stop resisting and find peace and rest in My grace. God is often practically pleading with us, stop it, get over this ridiculous, rebellious, attitude that only leads to death! We should be in a state of reflection, repentance and prayer all year long, but we have been given this time of Lent to specifically reflect on the reality of the state of our sinful nature. Not as a way to beat you down, but as a way for you to truly live “I am the way the truth and the life…” Jesus tells us. His way, life and life more abundant in the resurrection. The world’s way is sin and death. We may think Ezekiel is being overly harsh, but God, through Ezekiel, is desperately trying to steer us away from our rebellious and sinful nature and find true life, hope, promise and eternal life of perfection in Him. Is there any doubt that when someone repents, stops his rebellious ways that the Father will be joyful? Luke writes: “ESV Luke 15:7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Because we can’t have it our way, we act as if God is the enemy. We live in a “gotcha” culture. It’s not about what you do, the great ways you serve, the things you accomplish. There are people out there who genuinely think they are serving by waiting in the weeds in order to “gotcha” on the most trivial issues and show what a truly horrible person you are. The world tries to project that mind-set on to God. Nothing can be further from the truth. The “gotcha” God wants is the times when you realize your sin, repent and mourn in ashes over your sin and realize all that He has done to save you and give you eternal life. Is there any doubt in your mind that the Father, on His throne, will be smiling when you realize what has been done for you? Sure He knows who He has saved, but in the middle of the joy of heaven, there will be the Father’s smile of satisfaction, that His plan in that person has come to pass? In the parable of the talents Jesus tells us how our Master, God, “Enter into the joy of your master.” (Luke 25: 21, 23) The world tries to convince us it’s an “us against Him”.

By the same token, He isn’t playing. You want to take the wide road into the wide gate, do it your way? You can’t expect God to be pleased with your destructive behavior. He wants to save you, Jesus came in order to be the salvation of the world. The Godhead knows that most of the world faces destruction, death, the eternal wrath of God, and why shouldn’t they who have rejected God? God takes no pleasure over the death of the wicked, but they made their choice and rejected God. Ezekiel writes: “Again, though I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die’, yet if he turns from his sin and does what is just and right,…he shall surely live; he shall not die.” (Ez 33: 14, 15). Through the Holy Spirit, the Father has made the path to salvation quite obvious and doesn’t make us jump through hoops to be in Him, as all other beliefs do. He gives us pure, unqualified grace in His Son Jesus. Jesus did the hard work and the heavy lifting. Jesus died on the Cross the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the entire world. God made the road to salvation quite obvious in His Son’s life, death and resurrection. There is nothing we can do to earn it, to justify it, to deserve it, it is given to us to have life and life more abundant.

In our Gospel reading people are asking Jesus if the people who died because of Pilate or an accident somehow deserved such violent deaths because they were bad people. The people asking were somehow “good” and those that died got what they deserved. Jesus replied: “No, I tell you; unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Not that a tower will fall on all of them, but Jesus was saying, keep doing what you’re doing and you will all die in your sins, you will be condemned to the eternal fire where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. We do not have a “gotcha” God who is just waiting to condemn us. John 3:16 for God so loved the world that He gave us His Son to give us a sure and certain way to salvation, everlasting, perfect life in the resurrection. Trust in Him who does so much for us, turn and repent and know that in Him, in His church, in our baptism in Him and in the Lord’s Supper when we eat His Body and Blood, in Jesus’ life and sacrificial death, He has saved you to that eternal life in the resurrection. He wants what is best for you and waits to give it to you. There is no joy in the death of a sinner, there is joy in the man and woman who repents and receives the free gift of grace in Jesus.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

 

[1] Stevenson and Glerup in “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Ezekiel, Daniel” p xx

[2] Ibid p xiv

[3] David Peters “The many Faces of Biblical Humor”

Cathedrals are as important now as ever in Christian witness

First Saint Johns Evangelical Lutheran Church in downtown York, Pa. It is an historic and majestic glory to God. Christmas church sanctuaryAnytime I get the chance to show someone the sanctuary, the instant they walk out from under the balcony they inevitably let out a low reverential “wow” and rightly so. OK, I wouldn’t call FSJs (First Saint Johns) a “cathedral” but for a small city like York, Pa., it’s as close as you will get. Keith Anderson in his book “The Digital Cathedral” writes: “…according to Oldenberg’s criteria, cathedrals tend to function as more of a classic third place. Their doors are typically open throughout the day to visitors and pilgrims. People come and go as they wish, remaining anonymous if they choose. They are welcome to admire the architecture, art, or music; participate in worship; or just sit and be present in the space. The experience is not prescribed and there are lower expectations regarding participation and affiliation. As Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, writes, ‘There is clearly something about a cathedral … which breathes an unconditional welcome, allowing people to use its sacred space as they wish.'” (p 136) Well of course use it within reason. But the point is sill the same. FSJs sends an unconditional message of being a Christian church and rightly so. Me and Timothy in worshipI would love for FSJs to be such a cathedral where people could come and go. Add to that our minister of music or our emeritus musician playing the organ on a regular basis would create a magnificent environment of glorifying Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Certainly I would see that as an opportunity to witness to Christ. The building itself is certainly a witness to what the Christian faith community can do to send a very visible witness and message to the community, but when it’s locked up the vast majority of any week, that witness does tend to send a message of isolation and exclusivity. That’s not the message that should be sent.

Having said that, there is the reality that it is in a part of the city that is a little problematic. There have been items that have, well let’s just say grown legs. That would be minimized if we could have regular supervision, but providing that supervision at least 40 hours a week would also be problematic. It certainly would be a tremendous faith statement to leave those doors open without supervision and I’d like to try, but needless to say that’s going to be a tough sell.

I think that you can tell from the pictures (and they frankly don’t do justice) that this is an impressive space and was made that way for a reason, to show that the builders took the church of Jesus Christ very seriously and would sacrifice time, treasure and talent in order to properly celebrate that. Too often such magnificent testimonials are kept locked away. I try to take advantage of every opportunity to at least hold worship, leaving the church open to all who want to attend. All are welcome to worship. OK, if we have the Lord’s Supper you do need to be a Lutheran. There’s a good reason for that and for anyone who wants an explanation I will be glad to provide it. However, worship is important and if you are willing to be flexible, not so dogmatic in terms of feeling you should be able to do whatever you want, you will get a lot out of worship.

“A cathedral is an immersive experience of faith formation, with the images, architecture, people, music and ritual all serving to form those who enter that space.” (Ibid p 166) Yes, faithfulness to those who were motivated by God to build this tribute and the accompanying unique ritual will affect people. We are serious about worship at FSJs, you will get a genuine worship experience in Christ here. We are not about the world, we are about true Christian worship and everything in that sanctuary is a tribute to that. Not just the history, but the faithfulness of today. What too much contemporary worship lacks is any real connection to the rest of the church. It is connection to the rest of the church, all over the world, as well as to the historical church, all down through Christian history that demonstrates true faithfulness. We are here to be a faithful part of the entire church, vertically and horizontally. Someone from the Lutheran Church in Africa (which is growing explosively, there are more Lutherans in Africa than in North America) could come to worship at FSJs and understand what is going on. They may not get the language or small provincial tweeks, but overall they would feel welcome and part of the worship. The same for a Lutheran from 400 years ago. That’s a good thing, not to be denigrated, the church is all about relationship and true worship. Not entertainment and playing to the crowd. “Part of the genius of cathedrals is the way they affect and shape us simply be being inside them. Even as you trace a particular stone carving with your finger, stare up at a certain stained glass window, walk by a labyrinth… the environment itself is shaping you. As Marshall McLuhan reminds us, ‘Environments are not passive wrappings, but are, rather, active processes which are invisible.’ The space we inhabit (just as the media we use) affect us in ways we don’t always notice.”(Ibid p 166)

The cathedral is always intended to remind us of the ubiquitousness of God, His infinite power and glory and that He focuses all on the individual believer. It’s built to give us the tiniest hint of the glory of God and eternal life in Jesus in the resurrection. Too much of today’s church architecture is made to make people comfortable, a pleasant environment. That’s not what it’s about, it’s about challenging you, wowing you, giving you just the slightest glimpse of the presence of almighty God, Creator, Sustainer, Savior. “That kind of reaction is just what the architects intended… the overall feeling she had was one of weightlessness, as if being lifting heavenward.” (Ibid p 167)

While too many try to emphasize taking over abandoned retail stores for worship, and sure that has its place, too many are also trying to minimize the great monuments to God that can still be maintained and stand as a tribute to the Triune God, to Christ whose church this is, He built the church and as much as possible we should build churches to truly honor Him. My hope and vision is that we can build the ministry of these churches, truly have a cathedral that will be open to any, available to those who want to have worship on Thursday nights at 5pm because they just can’t get to worship any other time. To be a place where people are free to inquire and search and I can be there to help them in that inquiry.

I get the point of Rev Anderson’s book, in this new age we should be a part of all the places where we can reach and connect with people. I have no problem with that and do that to the best of my ability. However, what better place to give people a genuine experience in Christ in a place that was built to honor and glorify Him and genuine discussion and inquiry can happen?

Will God really bless you’re being MIA from the real church?

Since I’ve been in ministry over five years, I think I can make some valid assessments. Especially being in a downtown/inner city church. While it is inner city and there are violent incidents, I can honestly say that there has been very little impact while I have been there. We’ve had a couple of incidents of material vandalism, but these were isolated, no one really even around. A couple of incidents of people who needed to be confronted, one physically removed. But I frankly don’t believe it’s anymore than any other church. We all have our unfortunate incidents, a downtown church is not immune from that. I grew up and lived in a larger city for over thirty years. There’s nothing in York that is really impressively violent. It’s certainly not parts of Boston, Detroit, Baltimore etc. While I can’t give you hard measurements, it seems that if anything, at least for the area surrounding First Saint Johns, things have improved, since I’ve been here.

Another observation I’ve made is the number of “realists” who think that their uninformed opinion and their life in general is just A-J squared away and that they have some compulsion to share it. Part of that is this disregard for the importance of the serious Christian church, especially in the urban area.

At First Saint Johns, there is a faithful group of people, who genuinely want to be part of the community. Now, that has been somewhat stunted because of some negative influences among the membership. More and more that is being pushed aside and the church is more and more being a part of the community.

But we still have many outside of the church who seem to think that it is all about them (and yes, there certainly is that element in the church), that the church is there solely to meet their needs. It’s as if it’s some kind of social service agency that is just there to meet their needs and then leave them alone.

For those outside of the church, I’ve had many over and over who show up and expect people to just hand over things. People showing up around worship is a regular routine. Apparently the scenario is that I’m too busy to really deal with them, so I’ll just hand over what they want, they seem to think that I don’t want them there to begin with. Seems that they may be a disruption and I don’t want to deal with that. Yea, I’m just not going to rise to that bait. My standard procedure is to tell them to go to worship and then I’ll have time to talk to them afterwards. We have fellowship time after worship and they’re certainly welcome to share. I know that doesn’t go over big with some people in the church, but again I’m not there to play to those who have been there decades and expect that I’m supposed to be on their script. In five years there’s been a couple of people who’ve stayed and it gives me a chance to see a little of what they’re about and, maybe, help them. For the most part, when they see that the their plan isn’t going to play out the way they want, they unceremoniously leave.

When someone like that actually does want to talk, one thing I emphasize is what they’re going to do in order to pull things together. That being a part of a church community is probably one of the few places in our world today that you can build a genuine human face-to-face relationship. I try to impress upon them that people are much more willing to help and help in a meaningful way, if they will make the first step to become part of that community. I have seen it work. Too often, the subject person just won’t give it a legitimate try and walks away in scorn. But for some who have really done it the right way, I have seen them grow and begin to pull a real life together. Not saying it’s perfect, but I think and I’ve been told, that it has made a real change.

This is the more obvious example, but everyone out there needs to build genuine relationships and of course the most vitally important relationship is with Jesus. There is simply no way to build that relationship unless you are in a church body, the Body of Christ, with genuine, faithful, orthodox Christian believers. Sure other non-Christian churches do build personal relationships, but they are not building people to relationships in Christ.

My question is: Does God bless someone when they are MIA (Missing In Action) from his genuine, evangelical, Law and Gospel preaching church? Have to tell you, the answer is a genuine no. I’ve had it happen a few times, most recently when we were doing an outreach, right out in front of the church for a large road race that goes right by the church. A man stops who’s asking me what’s the difference between our church and the local big box church, which of course he thinks is all that and a bag of chips.

I told him, First Saint Johns is genuine worship. We’re not there for entertainment and amusement and feel good Christianity. We are here to be genuine disciples. Jesus tells us in Matthew: [ESV Matthew 7:22] On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?'” And Jesus replies to them: “[ESV Matthew 7:23] And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'” Sorry, but there are too many “pastors” out there who are playing to the crowd and too many crowds expecting to be entertained and patted on the head, who both think that what they’re doing is genuine worship. Not only that, but I’ve had this a few times, people who have had nothing to do with a genuine church, but when real life happens (as compared to big-box churches who generally will tell you that everything is just hunky-dory so long as you have faith), they expect a genuine church to swoop in and give them the comfort of Christ in their tragedy. Sorry, but the big-box churches won’t do that, to them, any kind of trial is on the person being subjected to trial, they obviously didn’t have enough faith. But please, showup and tell me about your nice earth toned building that entertain you once a week, or whenever you show up, but does little in terms of growing disciples and genuine outreach to serve those in genuine need.

Let’s look at the Acts church, a genuine church. Now let’s put aside all the charismatic stuff. Because I’m sorry Pentecostal churches, the Acts Church was not dancing around making the Christian life all fun and games and miracles. Yes, there were miracles, but this was the church in its infancy, the Gospels hadn’t been written yet. The moving of the Holy Spirit discipled them, and that’s fine. But for subsequent churches, they were discipled by men who had been genuinely taught and trained and could teach from the writings of the Gospel writers. Faith was based and is based today on what we are taught and led by the Holy Spirit. Not some fatuous, pretentious claim of speaking in tongues, healing, prosperity, but genuine Christian discipleship. There are genuine Christians out there who don’t speak in tongues, who are unhealthy and who are not financially well off. There are too many phoney Christians out there who are pretty sure they know more than everyone, they can buy or work their way to salvation (I refer you to Donald Trump’s recent comments) and that it is according to their script. This ladies and gentlemen, is the Pharisaical philosophy of the big-box church. This was the Corinthian Church as compared to the Acts Church.

The Corinthian church had a bunch of pretty well to do members who were pretty sure it was all about them. They would tolerate gross sexual immorality, they would bring in their big feasts, send the poorer members out to the kitchen to forage what they could, while they enjoyed their big feasts with their fellow Pharisees in the stately dining room, of course befitting their position, opposed to those poor Christians in the kitchen.

The Acts Church was nothing like that. In fact Paul was out raising money to support the church in Jerusalem. The church had nothing to speak of, its members had nothing to speak of and basically every one lived hand to mouth. Living not for themselves, but for each other feeding each other, caring for each other, helping each other through the trials. The Corinthians would have pooh-poohed such a pathetic situation. Sound familiar? Now objectively looking at both, which church would you really say demonstrated genuine faith?

Referring back to those Pharisees who come and tell me how everything should be, “I’m going to share with you everything you need to know to do things right” types. (Really I swear these people think I just fell off the tuna trolley.) This type of person is an interesting study, they will tell you how smart they are, yet, not smart enough to know what they’re talking about, or who they’re talking to. They simply don’t let the facts get in their way. I would compare education, life experience, work ethic with any of them, but they simply are not interested in getting the full story, they just want to make sure they know that I know they know it all, and that I’m incredibly naive to think that anyone needs a genuine Law/Gospel, discipling Christian church. Hey, here’s a thought Mister know it all, I might actually know things that will help you, I can give you real ministry, trained, experienced, genuine, doctrine that’s been around for 500 years and has guided millions of people to Christ. You might actually get something out of a genuine Christian church and know what it truly means to be a Christian.

Now this applies to both those who are coming in demanding that I hand over what they want, so they can leave and buy their booze, drugs, sex etc. And to those who are quite sure that because of their blessings that they are all that and a bag of chips and if I were smart like them (heaven forbid) I should listen to them and they’ll get me all straightened out. I submit, that if you would give me the opportunity, you might finally realize that the poorly trained pastor (most barely have a “Bible School” training. The Lutheran Church generally requires a Masters Degree) at your pretty happy-clappy-earth toned theatre, (ya, hardly ever a real church, usually built like a theatre for entertainment versus a genuine sanctuary. And you’re never going to see a crucifix, and probably not any type of cross or other meaningful Christian symbol. Because hey that would just harsh everyone’s buzz). Contrast with the “pastor” who really has no life experience, no real education, thinks that being a Christian (like to much of the world is entertainment and a handful of nice cliches, which are not usually even biblically based), mostly because he/she is immature and has never lived any life yet, but hey at least they make you feel good.

But when you want true Christian ministry, because you are now confronted with genuine crisis, genuine trials and you realize the “churches”, Christian mantras and “feel good”/prosperity prattle really doesn’t help you to cope in life, you may not have a church to come back to. You may find that genuine Christian ministry doesn’t have time for you. Does God really bless and support you when you’ve rejected His real church for decades? That you’ve failed to raise your children in a real church? That you’ve made it all about you and nothing about Jesus who died as a payment for your sins? That you expect an already overworked, extended pastor, who has been doing genuine ministry, for people who have been leading a genuine Christian life, that pastor is going to drop everything and jump through hoops for you? You, a person who expects people to jump through hoops and yet you make little if any sacrifice from your own life? That’s the sin of “simony”, when Peter told the sorcerer Simon that he should perish with his money. Do me and a lot of genuine pastors out there, a favor, keep your money. My integrity is only in Christ and what He did for me. Show some real integrity on your part and start supporting a genuine church of Christ. Are you genuine or do you just talk a good game? I know for most of those people who want to tell me what it’s really all about, they talk a good game, but they wouldn’t know genuine Christian ministry and discipleship if it bit them in the  nose. I’ve seen a lot of types, in different areas of my life, who have managed to do well in life, by doing very little except talk a good game, but not really know what it is to be a new creation in Christ.

Too many out there need to pick the real team, get back in the real game. Great things are happening here at First Saint Johns Church. To be sure God is going to work His blessing, with or without you. For once in your life, listen instead of presuming to know what is really going on. For those who have been truly serving for so long in God’s church, they need others to step up as genuine Christians to begin to do genuine Christian service and ministry, in a place where it really matters. If you’re really all that smart, show us how real Christian ministry can lead others to eternal life in Christ and genuine service in the world, true disciples.

Call me intemperate, over the top, but it’s way past time for many to step up and take real responsibility for their role in Christ’s church and to support genuine ministry and not ministry that is solely about entertainment and tickling your ears. I will be working my butt of supporting genuine ministry to genuine Christians, those who have been there for Jesus’ church through all the trials, tribulation and celebrations. I owe them my time and I will give as much time, talent and treasure as God leads me to do, day or night, 24/7. How do I know that? Because that’s what I’ve been doing. But for those who expect to drop in then drop out, you may not have a place to go. My time, talent resources are genuine, they’ve been given to me by God to use in His service and the priority for those resources are going to be for the benefit of those who have served and been disciples in Christ’s church. For those who think that the church is their for their convenience and just don’t seem to get true ministry, they may well have to wait. Let’s see real Christian men jump into the true fight and not sitting patting each other in your pretty little earth-tone churches.

Renewal of a great Christian Church

I’ve been the pastor of First Saint Johns for five years now (wow, I cannot believe FIVE YEARS!) OK, I’m better now, anyway, First Saint Johns really is a great, old downtown, almost cathedral. A place where God is truly glorified and has been for 140 years. It is also the focus on a “Renewal” effort, in order to rebuild a great temple to God.
Due to that I have done a lot of study and experimenting and while this is a message to someone else who is helping on this, I thought I would share this with the blogosphere.
While it might look like First St Johns has been a stuffy, tradition bound church, actually First St Johns “traditions” have been changed considerably in the last five years. While you might assume it has always been a liturgical type of worship, when I started there it was much more a kind of “folksy” as it were, contemporary, really wasn’t feast or fowl. I did not come to First St Johns with an agenda for liturgical worship, but the more I studied and also interacted with other ministries I felt that this is the way we should go. There was a lot of study and thought that went into this, there were no snap decisions and has been handled in a pretty subtle way, partly so that I could learn to do this better (and yea, I have a ways to go). Liturgical worship is not part of my experience, I did not grow up in any particular Christian tradition and my first years were in the United Methodist Church, so it’s not based on an agenda, but in terms of how are we best serving. I certainly could be doing some things in an unconventional way, but there again, I think the repetition of liturgical worship is built in to the worship in order to reinforce the point of the worship for the day. I would agree worship may appear to have a lot “stuffed” in and I’m not sure that’s the best way to go, but I really think a little overkill is more effective and I think it is effective in terms of overcoming years of downplaying Scripture in the church.
There is the issue in terms of using unfamiliar language, I’m not trying to intimidate, with liturgical language. But I think for too long the church has not challenged people, that it has made it easy and not made it something that was something important and God’s glory but that was supposed to be easy and therefore not even worth trying to understand.
I’ve done a couple of worship services, and planning to do it again, that walks through the service and explaining what it was about and why it’s done, something I try to stress for new members also. I really don’t think it’s an issue of “alienating” as much as including people in something that they should come to recognize as something so much bigger, more meaningful, that God does really change lives, His ways are not our ways, be a part of something that is God’s and not something that the church is, again, doing to lower itself into the world, but to raise God’s children above the world.
As I said in my sermon yesterday, worship in a more ancient manner ties us to the ancient church and also as a common factor with Christians around the world. I have seen a lot of current research that finds a desire in people, who, living in a period of such fragility, that we’re in, failure of institutions around us, the desire is for something that is stable, that has survived the centuries, that reaches to a massive number of Christians. Something that is solid, has stood the test of time and will move into the future.
The more we build that, establish that and project that, the more people will realize what they are not getting in their lives right now. During the Pentecost period, we do, mix things up a little. But during the high seasons, I want to emphasize the sacredness of those times and remind people of the important points of Christianity.
The reason why I resist a lot of praise songs is that the emphasis is changed from Jesus to the individual. One of the members of the congregation made an interesting observation (and I’m not really sure he supports liturgical worship), but he said that he’s always counted the number of personal pronouns in “praise music” and the I, me, mine always seem to dominate praise music. Hymns were written to be another way to convey the message of that day’s topic, too much praise music sounds nice, but there seems to be either little teaching or rather superficial teaching. I would very much like to do more with praise music. We’ve been trying to get a First Friday function ramped up to showcase Christian praise, I’d like to do other times of praise music, Erin Bode was at First St Johns a couple of years ago for an evening event. Believe me I love contemporary Christian music music, I have an extensive personal collection.
But it also raises another issue what you and I think of as contemporary Michael Smith, Amy Grant, Michael Card, and what older members think of, Gaither Band, is not what people today think of as contemporary “King and Country” “David Crowder” Modisha, which I also happen to like, but I’m sure you can see that kind of music would not go over big with the majority of people in the congregation. Gaither Band, would not be a big hit with younger members. I really am interested in any suggestions and if it really comes to pass that it would be doable to do a separate contemporary I would certainly consider it.
My reluctance there would be something that other churches have found in doing separate services for awhile, is that it tends to separate the congregation, segment it, instead of bring it together. We may not be able to avoid that since I would very much like to implement a separate Spanish speaking worship, but I honestly believe that at this point, more liturgical worship is what younger people are looking for in terms of stability and other factors that I could go into and would actually unite everyone in one method, vs, doing something that would be more pleasing to one group and would not speak to any other groups.
While I realize that these conclusions are not going to generate a whiz bang. upturn, I do believe that it has stabilized the congregation and given it something that can be shared by everyone and they can bring something that is rather unique into the world as a whole.
One other factor for me is this, I really do have to pick a lane with this church. We have been enormously blessed, and we are in relatively good shape, but we do need to stabilize on a common ground and take that into the world and trust that God is going to use this unified outreach and bless it to His glory and grow His church at First St Johns

Should the church cater to the consumer mentality?

This is from Leadership Journal,      http://www.christianitytoday.com/parse/2015/april/dangers-of-consumer-church.html?paging=off

Dangers of Consumer Church

Can self-centeredness be leveraged for the gospel?

“We are unapologetically attractional. In our search for common ground with unchurched people, we’ve discovered that, like us, they are consumers. So we leverage their consumer instincts.”—Andy Stanley in Deep and Wide

“In order to help people follow Christ more fully, we would have to work against the very methods we were using to attract people to our church…we slowly began to realize that, to be faithful to the gospel of Jesus, consumerism was not a force to be harnessed but rather an anti-biblical value system that had to be prophetically challenged.”—Kent Carlson and Michael Lueken in Renovation of the Church

So which is it?

Are “consumer instincts” morally neutral (or at least morally inevitable) and thus fair game for being leveraged toward spiritual ends, or are they something the gospel intends to crucify?

Can a person’s innate self-orientation be used to introduce him to Jesus and to becoming less self-oriented and more God-oriented? Or is a person’s self-centered orientation the very problem that the gospel seeks to cure?

Wasn’t Jesus “attractional”?

Most of us want to believe the church’s relationship to consumerism is a both/and. I want to believe consumerism is simply an inevitable (and perhaps a bit less than ideal) reality that might as well be leveraged in the name of Jesus.

That seems to be Andy Stanley’s point and the conviction that shapes the way North Point practices church. There is something refreshing about Andy’s candor and you can sense the freedom this approach has afforded North Point—freedom from neurotic analysis and endless introspection; freedom that becomes energy to go and do church in a winsome way.

While Andy deserves kudos for even taking the time to defend the church’s relationship with consumerism in a culture where many pastors don’t think to bother, sometimes his rationale is problematic:

“When you read the Gospels, it’s hard to overlook the fact that Jesus attracted large crowds everywhere he went. He was constantly playing to the consumer instincts of his crowds. Let’s face it: It wasn’t the content of his messages that appealed to the masses. Most of the time they didn’t even understand what he was talking about … People flocked to Jesus because he fed them, healed them, comforted them, and promised them things.”

Was Jesus’ goal to attract a large crowd? We cannot ignore the fact that in John’s gospel, Jesus reprimands the large crowd that flocks to him for food and miracles (6:26-40), which sets in motion a chain of events that prompt Jesus to say some rather abrasive things about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, which causes the crowd to thin out considerably, leaving only the twelve and perhaps a few more (6:52-68). I don’t think this is Jesus appealing to the consumer instincts of his crowds.

Or there is the stark solemnity of Mark’s gospel, where Jesus hangs all alone, forsaken by every male disciple and glimpsed only by a few female disciples from a safe distance. Yes, at times there were large crowds, but Jesus’ ultimate goal seemed to be something else. In other words, in the Gospels a large crowd is not the unreservedly positive thing we often assume a large crowd to be. Indeed, large crowds are especially prone to miss the point.

I’m not sure the Gospels anywhere imply that Jesus desired to attract a large crowd. It seems Jesus desired to show and tell the truth about the kingdom of God while being absurdly hospitable to all manner of sinners and nobodies because that is what the kingdom is like. Nowhere do I find some sort of calculated exploitation of consumer instincts (“how attractive are we to our target audience?”).

If a large crowd showed up to hear and see the truth about the kingdom, great. If it didn’t, great. I don’t think it moved the needle for Jesus either way—certainly he didn’t feel obligated to get the crowd to return, or to grow the crowd even larger. Nor did his stomach sink at the sight of a small one. None of this is because he didn’t care about how many people entered the kingdom (Jesus certainly wants a full house at the wedding feast!), but because Jesus knew it mattered how you entered the kingdom.

Kent Carlson and Mike Lueken pastored a church that also believed we could and should exploit consumerism. But through a long and arduous process of examination, they changed their mind. They came to believe that the way we practice church forms us in ways that rival, and at times, preempt the things we say. We can tell people to practice self-denial, but when everything we do caters to their felt needs as consumers (from their placement in small groups, to their participation, or lack thereof, in worship), our practice contradicts the teaching. It’s no wonder so many well-meaning church goers find the call to a cruciform life utterly incoherent.

What do I mean by consumerism? I believe it’s best understood as an ideology that sees personal freedom as the highest human good, and that freedom is realized in a person’s ability to take and throw away, whatever, however, and whenever he/she wants (be it spouses, babies, genders, goods, ideas). In our culture, this is freedom, the highest good: “the perfect, unconstrained spontaneity of individual will is its own justification, its own highest standard, its own unquestioned truth.”

Mixed Messages

When we talk about leveraging “consumer instincts” in the way we practice church, we are taking the ideology of the market and the narrative of acquisitive freedom as the highest good and baptizing them. We are telling our people that their wants and felt needs need no further justification and need not be questioned. What is most important is not that they become like Jesus (unless of course they feel like it), but that they are free (and comfortable) to become whatever they want to become.

Of course we will do all of this while saying the exact opposite, encouraging people to follow Jesus, to be transformed into Christ’s likeness, to die to sin and walk in newness of life.

The unspoken assumption is that this is a no-obligation relationship. You can have a relationship with Jesus as long as you feel like it … and if not, that’s totally okay. Come and go as you wish.

Few of us consciously propagate the ideology of the free market to the detriment of the gospel. Our motives for exploiting consumerism are benign if not pious. We want as many people as possible at our churches because that means more people get a chance to meet Jesus and that is justification enough for leveraging consumerism. I can go down that road, so long as I don’t think about it too much.

So what does this mean for the way we do church? I have formed a core conviction as I sort through all of this: The primary goal of a church is to be a faithful expression of God’s kingdom.

I think the Anabaptist tradition is on to something here. The church’s deepest calling is to be the kingdom of God in the world; not to change the world, not to save the world, but to be a glimpse and partial embodiment of a different world: God’s world.

It seems to me the primary goal of many churches is to grow as large as possible while still being a faithful expression of church. I think the goal must be to be as faithful an expression of church as possible, while also seeking to grow as big as being a faithful expression of church allows. We do this by practicing radical hospitality, love, and forgiveness..

I think Jesus wants a full house, but I don’t think we have permission to make growing as big as possible our primary goal. If we aim at growing as big as possible—while still seeking, when possible, to be a faithful-ish expression of church—we inevitably lose our way.

Some may see this as splitting hairs, and perhaps it is. Consumerism obviously exists on a continuum. A church like North Point is, clearly, a beautiful expression of the kingdom. But a split hair can change trajectory, and trajectory, over time, can make all the difference in the world.

So which is it? Should the church make a habit of leveraging consumer instincts, or not?

I think “consumer instincts” can be a euphemism for the modern ideal of acquisitive freedom—an ideal the gospel has every intention of crucifying. I think consumerism, at its core, is rooted in taking, getting something for ourselves, while the gospel, at its core, is rooted in God’s grace to us in Christ, and our response of faith and hope and love. These are not always easy bedfellows.

So what am I suggesting? Go out of your way to make your church smaller (surely many churches don’t need any help with that)? Frustrate people with petty inconveniences (surely the standard truths of the gospel are inconvenient enough)? Reenact the early church’s policy of asking unbelievers to leave before serving the Eucharist? Stop serving good coffee? Use incompetent musicians?

No. What I’m am suggesting is that many of us have become far too obsessed with making people comfortable, far too fluent with the grammar of the market, far too timid in our practice of the most revolutionary phenomenon the world has ever seen: The Church.

Austin Fischer is the teaching pastor at Vista Community Church in Temple, Texas.