What’s Next Recap

September 17, 2012 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership, Teaching

It was a great day at the Grove Church on Sunday.  I was pretty tired when I got home Sunday night, but it was totally worth it. For the first time in our history there were over 700 people at church. As we continue to solidify the vision that God has given us as a church, it is very exciting to see more and more people come and want to be a part.  God is moving at our church as we see more people finding Christ, getting connected and being sent all over the world.

We believe that God has even greater things ahead for us, and this last Sunday we spent some time talking about what was next for us as we pursue the vision that he has given us:

Reaching people to become fully-devoted, world-changing followers of Christ.

Here are the three things that are next for us. (You can watch sermon online here)

1) We need to learn to talk to and hear from God–This is more than just prayer. Too often prayer can become an exercise that we do without heart and passion. We need to be people that pour our hearts out to a loving father. We then also need to listen to what God has to say back to us in return. The Bible makes it clear that the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of us and gives us power. Are we aware of that power? Are we walking in that power?  Are we experiencing God in our daily lives or do we just believe true things about him and do good things for him?

2) We need to be in community with small groups of people–We need to have friends and relationship where we feel connected, where we are protecting each other (from sin, from difficult times, etc.) and where we are growing.  Too many people have buddies to hang out with and do stuff with, but how many of us have friends that will be there with us and for us no matter what?  We need friends who take initiative with us and friends that because of our relationships with them, we become better, more like Christ.  This is not a new church program, but it is a goal that each one of us needs to have.

3) We need to move–We now have four services with 3 of them being full this weekend.  We have kids classrooms that are full. We have no space to connect with each other. We have people parking 2 blocks away and visitors coming and deciding to leave because it is too crowded.  Now is the time for us to make a move.  This is going to be a financial challenge for us.  It is going to take all of us working together and believing that God is calling us to do this together.

Much more could be said about all three of these and much more will be over the next few months.  The first two will be covered throughout the fall as we start our series in the book of Acts.  The need to raise money and the challenge of moving will be talked about more as we progress in our search for a new space.

What should we do now as we wait to pursue the next building?

1) Make the move to e-Give.  This is our online giving resource.  This helps you with the discipline of regular planned giving.  You can find that here.  Sometimes what we lack is the discipline.  If we plan ahead to give on a regular basis and set it up, it happens.

2) Make your giving connected to your income not attendance.  Don’t just give something when you come, give a portion of what you make.

3) Go to the next level.  Non-givers become givers. Givers become planned givers. Planned givers give percentages of income. Then become a tither.

4) Save now for the big ask.  You may not have $1000, $5000 or more to give to the new building. But if you planned, could you in 6 months?

5) Invite a friend to come be a part of the Grove. The more people involved, the better.

6) Pray. Pray for wisdom for the leadership. Pray for finances. Ask God for what he wants you to do. Dream big with God. Then pray for God to help you do what he’s calling you to do. We are believing there are going to be some great stories over the next year in how God provides. Be a part of one of those stories.

We are excited about what’s next and hope you are to.  Any questions? Feel free to shoot me a note at charlie@thegrovechurch.org

The House That God Won’t Sell by Heidi Loften

September 4, 2012 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

So, if you have known The Loften family during the past 2 ½ years or so, you know that we own a house in Cabot, AR where we no longer live.  We began trying to sell that house in May 2010 before we moved to Fayetteville in August 2010.  We have prayed that this house will sell.  We have had anyone who would listen and would pray praying that this house will sell.  We have begged and pleaded with God for 2+ years to free us from the burden of this house.  I especially have taken it personally that God has not answered our prayer.  He has sold houses down the street from ours in seemingly miraculous ways.  We have had countless “almosts”—any of which could have turned into a sale if He had willed it.  We followed His call to move to pastor a different church; shouldn’t He have smoothed the path ahead?  He knows that pastors don’t make enough to cover 2 mortgages!  Why would God put this burden on us when we are just trying to be faithful to Him?

I am here to report that the burden of this house has been lifted from our shoulders!  However, the title to the house is still in our name.  God has given me freedom, but not in the way I thought it would or should come.

I have told many people about “our house” over the past couple of years.  I have praised its charms and selling points.  I have bemoaned the features it lacks which I was certain had kept it from selling.  I have spoken of it in unflattering “albatross” terms as a burden that is keeping us from being and doing all that we want to do in our new home.  I had grown to resent its existence.  How long, Lord, will our prayer go unanswered?

God answered my prayer by telling me about “His house.”  It has the same address as “our house that won’t sell,” but a very different story.  “His house” sat empty and waiting for a year for a family that would need a new home.  This family had moved from a discouraging situation where they had felt shame and defeat.  They walked into the house that God had been saving for them and felt like royalty.  It was a beautiful new home, more luxurious than any they ever dreamed of living in.  Their hope and confidence were renewed.  They knew if God had provided them with such a lavish blessing as this home, that His favor and hand would bless their new endeavors.  God’s house was perfectly laid out to host countless Bible studies and cookouts.  Our family could not have asked for a better home while we lived in Cabot.

When we left Cabot and moved to Fayetteville, we assumed we would sell one house and be moving into another.  But God moved us into Paradise instead…or so we dubbed the cheap 2 bedroom apartment where we spent the next 6 months.  The lessons learned in Paradise were countless, but in summary—God used it to refine our family and orchestrate His perfect timing.  We gained a new appreciation for each other and God renewed our desire to add to our family.  Had we sold “our house” when we planned to all of the pieces would not have fallen as they did to bring our precious new daughter into our family.  God used “His house” to deliver “His baby” into her family.

For the 2nd time now, God has used His house to answer the prayer of a family seeking a house to rent.  Twice now after fervently praying for our house to sell and sensing in our spirits that God was moving, He has told us to rent it instead.  Twice now a family has called us within hours of offering our house for rent telling us that our house was the specific answer to their prayer.

God used this 2nd instance to tell me the story of His house.  “Why, God?” I asked Him, “Why did you answer that family’s prayer and not ours?”  The answer came back, “Because this is my house.   I can use it for my plans and purposes.  I can use it to bless the renting families, and teach your family to pray.”  God flooded my heart with the story of His house.  The blessing it has been to our family in so many ways, and the blessing that it has been twice now to families praying for a home.  God also made it clear to me that He was not asking me to bear the responsibility of the house while He exercises the freedom to do with it as He pleases.  Although a pastor’s salary can’t support 2 mortgages, He has always provided.  Both in freedom to do with it as He pleases and in responsibility to provide, this is and has always been His house.

I am not going to stop praying about the house, but I am going to stop praying for “our house” to sell.  I am praying for “God’s house” now—a haven, a place of redemption, a home with God-sized potential which exists for His glory.  I am praising Him for the miracles He has done in and through it and trusting Him for more.  I am finally free from a burden that was never mine but has left scars on my back.  God is showing me that His promise is true for more than just houses.  He is teaching me to be burdened in prayer and leave His part to Him.

29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”