Friday, December 16, 2005

Christmas Controversy?

Should we have Christmas Day worship services? I would have to say that I am falling in the "no" category, feeling that God wants us to honor Christ with our families in Christmas Day.

Our church has been celebrating Advent and Christmas all month long and three very special Christmas Eve services planned specifically for the purpose of allowing our church body to gather together to honor and celebrate the incarnation of our Lord and Savior.

Personally, this will be the first Christmas Morning in 13 years that I will not spend with my family. Where is the point when "church" actually hinders the relationship of a Christ-honoring family? Check out these comments from the web that further express my opinion.

(For the source of these comment and a variety of responses on the controversy, go to Church Marketing Sucks. Be sure to chime in on the conversation here with your comments.)

When I was younger, our focus as disciples was to keep Him in the right place, enthroned in our hearts, and to live peaceably with others, to share His love and to demonstrate what an impact He makes in our own lives. That also helped us to remember that Christmas and much of the traditions that we have built up about this season are just that: traditions. And, as traditions go, they become entrenched in community practice and sometimes they get revised, transformed and even enriched by much newer practices. Whatever the practice, usually underlying principles linger. For Christmas, what undergirds it, is that it is a joyful time, a wonderful time of community, sharing, celebration, renewal, relationships and family. It is a time to be charitable, to give, to love and to remember. And, if people, communities and churches remember this, then I think they are celebrating the season, and we ought to give them grace to do so in the way they seek.
Christmas morning is the one day a year that should be reserved for the family! Yes, it is a holy day. Yes, it is the day that we celebrate the birth of our Savior. But there is something very sacred and Christ honoring about setting aside this day as a unique day in the life of a family- a day not filled with activity and stress, but a day to relax, enjoy the blessings of God and spend time with family!
I am on staff at a church about 150 people. We are not doing a service on Christmas Day but it appears that the reason we approached it was different. We looked at it from this angle: what as a church is our driving focus for Christmas this year. As a church we are promoting families and anything that we can do that develop the relationship we are doing. That is the reason we decided to not a Christmas morning service. It would be detrimental (sp?) to where the church is going.
My biggest complaint about the coverage of this is that many of the reports make it sound as if worship starts and ends at the church door. We are not having Christmas services this year but mainly because we never have a Christmas service. But like many evangelical churches we teach that worship of God is a constant and ongoing thing. Therefore we have been sending the message that although we will not be worshiping God as a community of believers on Christmas day that we will be worshiping Him throughout the day as we spend time with family and friends.
I wonder if Colossians 2 speaks to this issue at all... "So don't let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new-moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules were only shadows of the real thing, Christ himself." (Col 2:16-17 NLT)
Consider Mark 2:27 (NIV) "Then he [Jesus] said to them, 'The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.'"
I really don't understand why everyone's getting bent out of shape about this now. It's not like we're not celebrating Christ's birth in church in all the preceding weeks or even on Christmas Day.
I agree that family should come before Church, and also that God should come before family (all of these are not exclusive - one or the other, mind you).
For somebody who worships only one day a week, it might seem that they are being robbed of that chance since the church doors are locked, or that the pastor has a "paid" day/week off. For those of us who worship 7 days a week, we recognize that all we really have is a change of venue.

Jesus preached in the temple as well as taught on the sea-shore, He ministered at funerals, and weddings, and fellowshipped with friends and family. He even worshiped alone in secret, and instructed us to do the same.

When we stand before the Judge at the end of time, we will not be asked if we had perfect attendance every Sunday, or observed His Birth and Death on their appropriate days; He will ask if we fed the hungry, clothed the naked, encouraged the desperate, and loved our neighbor.

For the source of these comment and a variety of responses on the controversy, go to Church Marketing Sucks. Be sure to chime in on the conversation here with your comments.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Bit Down-trodden...

OK. So I've been feeling a bit down-trodden lately. I have been reminded that being in ministry can be challenging. Worship, ministry, and life itself is a series of tensions that we must work through.

Emotionally, I want to please everyone - I want everyone to be happy, especially with worship. But wisdom and experience speak to the fact that this is not possible. Specifically speaking, some what more hymns, some want less, some like things the way they are. Some want things louder, some want it quieter, some like it the way it is. For some, change is too fast. For others, it is too slow. Where do we seek the balance?

My conclusion, although it does not make things easier, is that there IS no balance. Making people happy, although it seems to make MY life easier on the outside, is not the solution (even if that solution could be sought). I am more convinced than ever that we must look more inward to the life God has put inside of us (Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit). Too often we look on our outward desires and justify them based on our preferences, history, or experiences - when the only justification or solution we should be looking for is from Christ.

So please pray for me that I might be able to be attentive to, hear and respond to, the guidance I might receive from God over the many other voices...

Inside-Out Worship

Being at Hannaford for a year now, we've been evaluating the ministry here. Recently, we've begun a new challenge to continue moving forward. I believe this "forward motion" is necessary for all believers and ministries because we live in an ever-changing and ever-evolving world. While God Himself and His precepts never change, the vehicles in which He is presented must change.

The same living water must be poured into new wine skins for each generation. To quote my good friend Kevin Bowers, "to maintain is to die." For more reading on this thinking, I suggest Len Sweet's Aqua Church and Erwin McManus' An Unstoppable Force.

I present this as food for thought...

As a team in the last year, the Praise Team has been able to produce a change in the atmosphere of worship here at Hannaford - the Holy Spirit has enabled, even anointed us to bring an attitude of celebration and joy to our worship gatherings. What has lacked, however, is a deep passion for God evidenced through our worship on Sundays and throughout the week. (It's not that there isn't a deep passion for God in some, it is just that that passion isn't connecting with our worship). We seem to be fixated on the externals with our worship on the outside - What we are doing and what others are doing..

God has led me to the conclusion that our focus, our vision if you will, must result in inside-out worship. One that develops from Godly passion & purpose, and intimate relationship with Him; a worship that is born from revelation and personal experience; a devotion that flows from a changed life.

Our new vision is to be "a team of servant-leaders who seek passion and purpose through inside-out worship.

God granted this vision as I read through a little book complied by Matt Redman, Inside-Out Worship. As I read through the short readings in the book, I was struck over and over about how the topics addressed the missing elements of our worship (and our understanding of worship). So, yes. I took the phrases "passion and purpose" and "inside-out worship" for my own - Under the circumstances, I don't think Matt would mind.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Swimming Lessons Photos & Movies

As promised, I've loaded the photos (and a couple movies) of the kids' swimming lessons. There is also a new featured photo. Things are kind of busy right now. We're getting ready for the Fall Conference/Pastors' Conference next weekend so there are a lot of loose ends to tie up this next week. Right now, Andrea's pretty sick with a head cold so keep her in your prayers.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Powell Summer Update

We've got the whole summer to catch you up on, so here goes. Be sure to check out the new Summer Photo Gallery we just added in the ePhotos gallery.

Well, at the church we had VBS and Drama Camp. Those photos can be seen in the Hannaford Photo Gallery. However, we do have a special gallery in e|Photos that only has VBS photos with Kellin and Andrik. Yes, it's a bit self-serving, but hey!

You'll also notice that the new Hannaford Street Bible Church website is up and running. Check it out and let me know what you think. While you are at the Hannaford Photo Gallery looking at the VBS photos, make sure you check the latest construction photos of our new auditorium.

As you probably know, we came down to California to visit in early July. You may have also heard that we hit a deer on our way out of town. Unfortunately, the van was damaged so we had to return home and drive the Corolla. Several had asked about the damage so check out our featured photo. (That brings up another point. It's obvious we can't put up a photo each week. And I felt pretty silly calling it a photo of the week, so I finally decided to change the name to "featured photo.")

I'm pretty sure that Andrea mentioned our large grassy yard when we visited. The difficulty being the "large" part. Ever since it thawed here last Spring, the grass has been growing out of control and is very difficult to mow (we're saving up for a ride-on mower). When we visited California, we thought we'd try not watering the yard for two weeks, but it didn't help much. Anyway, there is a photo of Andrea battling the yard in the Summer Photo Gallery.

I know it's been hot in California, but it's been pretty hot for Montana, too! The average is in the 80s for this time of year, but we've been sustaining the 90s for a few weeks. Every once in a while a thunder storm comes in for a few afternoon hours and drastically cools things off. One day it was in the high 90s and the next day was in the mid 60s. Andrea and I were commenting how, in California, we used to call that kind of weather "earthquake weather." Surprisingly enough, we DID have an earthquake here the next day. Hmm...

We also got a dog before we left for California. It was kind of odd getting a dog, and then leaving it with friends just a week after we brought him home. Anyway, his name is Shadow and he is about 11 months old now. Since he is a puppy, we are still having problems with digging and chewing, but we're working on it. He's obviously been hurt before we got him, because he is quite skittish when someone even raises their voice. There are a couple of photos of Shadow in the Summer Photo Gallery.

I think I mentioned that Andrea has been playing softball this Summer on our quasi-church team (the team is sponsored by Dairy Queen and about half of the ladies are from the church). Well, as the season has come to a close, the team did quite well. Check out the photos in the Summer Photo Gallery for photos of Andrea in action and also to find out how well the team did.

The kids have also just finished swimming lessons this Summer. They're not great swimmers yet, but maybe Don won't have to jump in any pools after Andrik anymore. Actually the kids really improved and are much more comfortable in the water now. They also made the evening news here when the local NBC affiliate was shooting a story at the city pool. We will soon be posting some photos (and maybe a couple movies) of the kids' swimming lessons.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Spring in Montana

Along with a new featured photo, Springtime is finally here in Montana - the weather is weird compared to what we're used to in California. Usually in California, it's a rainy day for most of the day. The weather is a bit unpredictable here. You can wake up at 7am to a bright and sunny clear sky and two hours later it can be raining heavily. In contrast, it can be quite gloomy and then turn into a beautiful day. It can actually change back and forth a number of times.

The other thing about Spring in Montana is that things actually start growing again. We haven't watered our yard since we moved in and it looked pretty dead. It apparently goes dormant though the Winter. Since we started watering, the grass is growing like crazy - and we have a huge yard. If we could only get a ride-on mower. Anyway, we've spent three weekends trying to mow it. Well, enough about Spring...

On May 13-14, Andrea went to Women of Faith in Billings. The local radio station was giving away tickets and one of the ladies in the church won and invited Andrea. It was pretty cool because she wanted to go, but we didn't feel we had enough money set aside.

Andrea is also playing softball on our quasi-church girls team (which is sponsored by Dairy Queen). I hope to get some photos of them in action soon. So far, they're undefeated at 4-0 this season!

Andrik is almost out of school for the Summer. This will be his first experience having a Summer vacation because the district was year-around in Rialto. I don't think Andrik is going to know what to do with himself after three months out of school!

I've also started working on revising the website for Hannaford. It's going to be a major overhaul
And, oh yes, I almost forgot. I'm going fishing in Alaska the first week of June. I've really not done a lot of fishing, but I think it will be a pretty cool experience. Someone in our church has offered to pay most of my way. I'm quite grateful.

Okay, I'm signing off for now...

Friday, April 29, 2005

Andrik's Science Project

It just seems that all the things Andrik does in school, I didn't do until I was older. I remember him having homework in Kindergarten, book reports in first grade, and now a science fair project in fourth grade. I didn't do one until I was in Junior High - and even then, my dad did most of the work :-o

Well, Andrik's project, specially chosen by Mom and Dad and agreed upon by Andrik, was to drop water balloons from different heights and then to measure the splatter. I could explain the whole thing to you, but you know how much I love photos!

Monday, April 25, 2005

Slower-Paced Lifestyle?

Someone said we have a slower-paced lifestyle up here in Montana. In reality, it is true. No two-hour-long drives to work. Leave for work at 8:30. Get home at 5:00. Go home for lunch. All that lost time is regained - I really enjoy that.

But then there are some weeks that are really hectic. I've mentioned those weeks before Easter about three times now. And then there is that November-December period before the Christmas Dessert. Even when I was expecting things to slow down after Easter, we had a Women's Retreat (I had to help Andrea get together all the music). This week alone we have:
  • Brochures that need to be finished for this fall's 9th annual Pastor's Conference
  • This year's AWANA Award Night
  • A Maximum Impact simulcast outreach to business people in the area,
  • A wedding
  • Mission Mania missions conference
Well, needless to say, I really am enjoying the slower-paced lifestyle :-)

Monday, April 11, 2005

Easter and Beyond

Well, our last entry was just before Easter. Easter Sunday, Good Friday, all the postcards inviting residents to Hannaford – it was a busy time. All in all, Easter went well. The postcards went out. On Good Friday, we watched The Passion of the Christ again and then had a quiet time of communion and worship. It was nice and really set the mood for Easter morning three days later.

Easter was not as packed as it might have been. It seems we had several visiting families, but at the same time, we had a number of regulars out visiting family for the week or weekend. All in all, we numbered about the same. It was a couple of good services, though.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Prepping for Easter...

We've got some new photos in the photo gallery. Be sure to check them out - kind of cool are the photos of the new foyer. It's really nice and more than just a hallway. Also check out some of the photos of worship in January. These are during our second service. Things have gotten so packed, we've been running a video and audio feed to our fellowship room so people can sit in there, too.

Anyway, things are pretty hectic this week in bringing everything together for Easter: An Easter worship choir, two DVD features, a creative reading, the praise team music, decoration, and more. I can see already (on Wednesday) that I've got my work cut out for me. Andrea's working hard, too. We've decorated the sanctuary with symbols of new life - our theme for Easter is Alive Again! A Celebration of New Life. Instead of gloom and sadness of the death on the cross (very much an important element of the Gospel), we want to focus on the rest of the story, the resurrection, and what it means for those who embrace Jesus.

Still, it seems pretty exciting. On Friday, we're having a worship ministry gathering at our house to celebrate Good Friday. We're going to view The Passion or the Christ followed by the breaking of bread and then some reflective worship. On Easter, we're prepared for a larger group than usual, especially since we sent out an Easter invitation of over 10,000 post cards to the growing areas of Helena. A 0.5% response would mean 50 people!

Last week, it was beginning to get warm for around here (in the high 60's). Tonight, however, a new storm blew in - pretty heavy and icy in town and at the church. It will probably linger through Easter. It's not so bad at home since we're situated differently in the valley.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Welcome to our new e|Something blog!

Thank you so much (all of you) who have been visiting our e|Something blog!

We're hoping that this will be a more convenient way for us to leave updates and a better way for you to provide comments, feedback, questions, and other interactions. We'll still be posting photo galleries and such on the e|Photos page, but list the links of new photos here.

It'll also give you an easier way to figure out if there is anything new - you can "subscribe" via an RSS feed or by email (see the e|Social icons in the right sidebar).

Well, that it for starters. Be sure to tell us what you think, and come back soon!