Monday, September 28, 2009

Reset for Growth

I don't want to miss this opportunity to say a big THANK YOU to everyone at The Orchard Church. Over these past few weeks we've taken a big and exciting new step together as we have added a second worship service. Thank you to those who are serving, those who are putting in extra hours and to those who have willingly made the adjustment to their Sunday morning schedule.

While we were diligent in seeking the Lord over this transition, and worked hard to do our homework, to learn from others and to plan, there have still been a couple of wrinkles that we have had to work out along the way. That said, so far everything has gone tremendously well. God has been gracious and His people have been faithful!

One of the adjustments that we're all having to make is that we have grown accustomed to seeing our sanctuary pretty full each week, but now with a second service (even though we have taken out some chairs), there is still a lot of room left over. The 9am service has so far proven to be more popular with but the 11am service appears to be the one drawing more visitors. While the fact that we are spread between two services creates the feel of a smaller attendance, let me tell share with you a couple of the reasons why I am especially excited as we move forward:

1. Based on these first few weeks of the 2 service format, our total weekly attendance would have meant that had we not moved to 2 services we would have been at full capacity for our facility and unable to add more than one or two new families. I believe that the Lord is graciously affirming that this was the right decision at the right time!

2. The 11am service which is currently the smaller of the two is so far averaging more people than were in the entire church at the end of 2007, only about 20 months ago! God has done great things in our midst in the last year and half, and I can only begin to imagine what He might have in store for us over the next 20 months.

Our desire as a leadership in taking this step was to obediently follow where we believed that God was leading, and to provide an opportunity for many more people to be able to hear the life changing message of the gospel. Thanks to everyone at The Orchard for being so willing to take this step with us, to make room for others and to courageously press the reset button so that while each service may right now look a little smaller that what we have grown accustomed to we can look back on what the Lord has done, and look forward to what He has yet to do.

Thanks for your continued partnership in the work of the gospel.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Famine In The Land of Plenty

I opened my mailbox a few days ago and found a catalog from a well known seller of Christian books.

Being an avid reader, I set the catalog aside and awaited a few precious minutes of peace in which I could sit and salivate over the latest offering of new releases. When I did sit down with my cup of coffee to open this particular catalog I quickly discovered that this was actually a special edition catalog dedicated exclusively to Bibles.

Like you, I too have visited the "religion" section at Borders and have been surprised by the eight or ten shelves of Bibles that they stock. Imagine therefore my amazement when I discovered that this catalog boasts 64 pages of nothing but Bibles! What's more, each page is replete with dozens of variations or every size, shape, color and translation.

While I suppose I should have taken that moment of realization to fall on my knees and give praise to God for His abundant blessing that His Word is so easily available to us - I found myself instead with two very different thoughts.

First I sat somewhat grieved over the fact that I have brothers in sisters in Christ who have perhaps one single copy of the Bible available to be shared by their entire church, and others without any what so ever and here I am being offered any one of literally thousands for myself.

Second, and more sobering still was the reminder that while we may have abundant access to the Word of God, there is a great famine of it in our land.

Consider the words of the prophet Amos, some 2700 years ago. "Behold, the days are coming" declares the Lord God, "when I will send a famine on the land - not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord."

Now, while I believe that he spoke primarily of the coming exile of Israel because of their unfaithfulness, it is not hard to see that we are a people of great abundance, yet with a desperate famine of the Word. Our issue isn't that the Word of God isn't available, it is that despite the ease of access that we have to it, we are allowing it to gather dust!

While we may have the latest leather bound, chain reference, glossy mapped, study Bible with our name proudly embossed on the front are we hiding His Word in our heart?
Imagine with me if you will, the impact that we might have on our communities if we not only owned a Bible, but actually dedicated ourselves to reading it, to learning it and to putting it into practice.

Less I be misunderstood, I am not critical of this particular book seller. I have an over abundance of Bibles in my office, not to mention the literally hundreds that the Bible software program on my laptop offers but, may I be able to say with the Psalmist:

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. (Ps 119:15-16)

I believe there is a famine of the Word of God in the Church today, not because we in the west do not have access to it, but because some where we've bought into the idea that it is there to look at instead devour. Church, it's time to eat!