Wellpst, it has been yet another crazy transition year for the Loften crew. As you can tell from the picture, we are all handling it well.
Anywho, in the midst of a wild transition, we are very thankful to a God who has been so faithful to us this year. Maylee and Lauren are doing well in school, have made great friends, and it didn’t take them long at all to get involved in the things they love to do. Lauren loves playing “ninja goalie” for her new soccer team, and Maylee can’t wait to perform in her local theater debut in Feb.
We have loved living here in Fayetteville–Razorbacks! Great food, beautiful places and always something fun happening. Our new church, The Grove, is going well with a lot of new people and energy. The people of The Grove have been awesome, welcoming and loving our whole family.
We obviously miss all of our friends and family in Cabot/Central Arkansas. We love knowing that once God joins our hearts together, they are never really apart.
We hope that you have a great Christmas and that the incredible reality that the God of the universe came to dwell among us so that we could have life with him sinks deeply into your heart this season.
We love you all.
Cloften, Hloften, Mloften and Lloften
(Charlie, Heidi, Maylee and Lauren)
I’m not known as a complainer, maybe a good-hearted, humorous ranter, but not a complainer. At least I hope not. However, if I am not known as a complainer, it really is only because I’m not known. (Wait, what?) What I mean is that I am a complainer in my heart, it’s just that I don’t want to complain in public and be known as a complainer. This means that you should pray for my wife, Heidi. (Wait, what?) Seriously, if you know me at all, you can come up with 50 good reasons to pray for her, not the least of which is how much of my belly-aching she has to listen to.
Anywho, it’s been a while since I have publicly journaled the Loften perspective on the not selling of the house, so here we go.
I have been thinking recently about all of the things that we prayed for as we were getting ready for this transition to the new job pastoring the Grove Church in Fayetteville. We prayed that the transition would happen during the summer, so that the girls wouldn’t have to change schools mid-year. We prayed for safety and health for the whole family. We prayed that we would have favor (Nice churchy phrase that one) at the church and that the church would do well quickly. We prayed that the girls would do well in school. We prayed that they would make friends quickly. We prayed that they would find good ways to connect with activities that they really enjoyed. We prayed that the Razorbacks would have a good season with us up here (Just checking to see if you are really reading or skimming. Just kidding on that one…mostly)
So, absolutely every one of those prayer requests God has answered, many of which far beyond our expectations. I could fill up multiple blog posts with the stories of God’s faithfulness and love to us with stories about each of those requests. However, there is but one prayer request that has yet to be answered (in the way we want)–selling that house. Mind you, that’s a big one, an expensive one, a frustrating one, but it’s just one.
Furthermore, look back at the list (Hogs excluded). Which one of those would I trade for the house being sold? My kids health or happiness? The church’s success? I wouldn’t trade any of them. So, here is today’s rhetorical question: What right do I have to complain? “God you make me so mad, how dare you only answer my top 9 prayer requests? If you’re not going to answer all of them in just the way I want, then what good are you?”
I’m not saying that we have gotten to this place easily, but we are here. “God we love you. Thanks for being faithful to us and blessing us so much.” We still pray for that house, that we would have closure, that we could settle and nest here. But we can’t complain any more. It just doesn’t make any sense.
There are people who follow hard after God who don’t have health, safety or 5 cents (think 3rd world countries). How do I complain when there is that? (But that’s a post for another day)
I have it all. Everything I need, and everything I want, except one thing, one thing.
What right do I have to complain?
I’m pretty sure that I’ve talked about this before. (Well, I know that I’ve talked about it. The question is have I written about it, which, again, I’m pretty sure that I have) Regardless, it bares repeating, especially since understanding this is a big next step for us at the Grove Church. We talked about this at the town hall meeting. (I know at least three of you are wondering why I stopped writing about the town hall. It was surprising to me how unmotivated I have been to write something that I have already said. My bad.)
For too often churches have “recruited volunteers.” This has historically done by passing around clipboards and asking people to “fill a slot.” If there is a less inspirational vision for getting people to serve in church, I have never heard it.
“If you will become a slot on my spreadsheet, then you will be able to shut me up about needing to fill slots on my spreadsheet.”
What the church needs are not people who feel obligated to do something that someone else tells them is important. What the church needs are people who believe that they are called by God to serve and to lead, to own the ministry where they serve. We don’t need people motivated by guilt–external or internal.
Everyone is gifted by God to serve. There are unique talents and passions that you have. God wants to use those to serve and minister to people around you. Unfortunately, leaders can often just recruit/beg/arm-twist people into doing things that the leader is passionate about. That is a short-term motivator, which is the reason why they are always passing the clipboard around.
If you are at the Grove Church, you have heard me speak very passionately about the need to love and serve our kids. This isn’t to motivate those who don’t want to serve kids, but hopefully inspire those that do want to serve. We need people who love kids, feel called to love and serve them.
We don’t want it to end there. We don’t want you serving the church’s ministry. We need people who want to partner and lead. This is our ministry, and “our” doesn’t mean the church’s, it means you and the church. We need you to own the ministry that you serve in. Tell us and show us how to make it better. Be creative, take risks.
I know that often the church has not good a job making people feel like they can be creative and take risks. If you are a church leader and you are reading this, stop doing that. If you are the only leader, then the ministry will only be as a good as you. If you let other leaders lead, then it can be as good as the giftings and strengths of all of you.
This doesn’t simply apply to kid’s ministry. We need people like this with students, hospitality, tech, the list goes on and on. This is a great time in the history of the Grove (and hopefully your church as well). To get to where the church needs to go next, we need you to believe that you have great value to add, are incredibly gifted, and we need you to use those gifts.
Not just to fill a slot but to be a champion.
Hmm, didn’t you say part 2 would come “tomorrow” which would have been “two days ago” which would have been “Tuesday?” Yes, yes, but I have a busy life. It’s tough only working one day a week. That’s how pastor’s are right?
Anywho, on with more from the Town Hall:
The elders got away for an overnight retreat. We spent a good portion of our time talking about our mission statement. What is it that God has called the Grove to be and do? What are our values? What makes the Grove, the Grove? (That’s a sentence that makes more sense when you say it with the right inflection. What makes the Grove, THE GROVE? Written, it looks ridiculous).
As we began to think about what God has called us to, there are two passages that we believe God was bringing to the front of our discussions. The first is the Great Commandment:
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
The second is the Great Commission:
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
From these two passages we understand that the most important things that we can do as believers, and ultimately as a church as well, is to love God with all that we are and love others the way we love ourselves.
God has called us first and foremost to people who worship. By this, we don’t mean simply singing worship songs, but in addition to that we need to live lives that show our love, gratitude and devotion to God.
The best way that we can show our love for others is by serving them and helping them have and develop a deep relationship with God. We need to reach people who are separated from God. Apart from a relationship with Jesus, people are lost and in desperate need of God. He is calling us to be a church that is building relationships with non-Christians and sharing and showing our faith to them so that they can come to know him.
We also need to help people grow in their relationship with God. We can go deeper with God, understand and know him better, love him more. Being a Christian is not about “getting saved” and then living life in anticipation of eternal life after we die. It is living that life now (John 10:10).
Grow to what end though? Sometimes we feel like we grow just to grow. God, however, is calling us take what we have and give it to others. We need to be a church that sends people into the world to love and serve them. God has uniquely gifted and impassioned each of us. He wants us to use those gifts and passions to help reach the world for Jesus Christ. We need to help people find those gifts and passions and then help them figure out the best place and way to use them.
Putting those four words (Worship, Reach, Grow, Send) together is the beginning of a mission statement. We have not crafted it together into an incredibly pithy and memorable and awe-inspiring statement yet, but when we do, look out! It will be centered around those 2 passages and those 4 words. We believe that this is what God has called us to at the Grove Church.
Talk to you again tomorrow (wink, wink)