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Why Would You Ever Leave a Church You Love?

shel: was on http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/08/27/leave-a-church-you-love-by-jarrod-robinson/ this speaks VERY closely to my Mercy Church experience.

I have bolded some parts that really resonate.

Why Would You Ever Leave a Church You Love? (by Jarrod Robinson, Southern Hills Church of Christ, Abilene)

My family and I just left a church we loved with all our hearts.

It has undoubtedly been one of the most difficult decisions we’ve ever made.

Nearly eight years ago my wife, Lauren, and I joined a new church family in the Dallas area. In many ways, it was love at first sight. The church leaders and staff were excited for us to be joining them, the church membership welcomed us with open arms, the, the congregation was located in a rapidly growing suburb, and the future seemed limitless. There was an undeniable sense of possibility and optimism blossoming in this new relationship.

I guess you could say that the first year was like the first year of marriage. Learning how to live together, figuring out how to share life, pushing through moments of misunderstanding and even conflict on the wings of willing hearts and through the life-giving power of new beginnings.

As is true in all relationships, that initial “honeymoon” period didn’t last forever, and it soon became clear that it was time for us to step into the harder – but even more fulfilling – stage of starting to build something together, something we all hoped with God’s help would have lasting significance.

By now, I knew the congregation well enough, and the congregation knew me well enough, for us to start asking more of one another than we ever could have at the start. We offered these mutual challenges not out of frustration or embarrassment or disappointment, but out of a deep sense of desiring something better, and not just for us, but also for the larger community around us. And the truth is, we stumbled some along the way as we tried to find new and better answers, but we stumbled together – we struggled as a family struggles – and we grew closer every step of the way.

Eventually, we reached a place where we were very comfortable. I was happy to be there, and the church seemed just as happy to have me there. As I listened to many of my pastor friends complain about the churches they served in, I would silently thank God that my experience was so different. Because while there were definitely difficult situations and tough days in my congregation, I always felt sure it was worth it.

Lauren and I often talked about spending the rest of our ministry life right where we were. The two of us would often have conversations late at night about our two daughters growing up surrounded by the same church family from the time they were born until they left the house for college. I occasionally thought about what it would be like to give a retirement speech many years from now, after four decades of faithful service in one church.

It felt safe and secure. It felt predictable. It felt like home.

Every so often, a search team member from another congregation would call me and ask me if I’d be willing to visit with them about the possibility of serving in a new place with new people. My response was always the same: “Thank you so much for your interest, but I don’t feel called to leave where I’m serving right now.”

Over and over again, I politely said, “No.” It always seemed like the right thing to do. I wanted to stay loyal to my church family and I wanted to finish what we’d started together with God’s help. So my answer, time after time, was, “Thanks, but no.” Most of the time, I didn’t give it a second thought.

But several months ago, after one of those calls, these words from Scripture rang like a bell in my mind: “The Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ So Abram went…”

These words haunted me for three days. And a question gradually started to form somewhere deep in my soul: “If God wanted to call me out of a place of comfortable safety and predictability to do an uncertain and risky new thing for the sake of others…how would God do that?” While speaking in an audible voice from heaven is obviously a possibility, how else would God speak to me?

It suddenly scared me to think of all the search team committee members from other churches that I’d automatically said, “No” to over the years. What if in refusing to really listen to them, what if in refusing to hear them out, I was unintentionally refusing to listen to God?

What if every time I told them, No,” I was also telling God, “No?”

What if, in an attempt to be loyal to one congregation, I was inadvertently ignoring a divine invitation to live out a broader loyalty to the kingdom of God? What would it mean to really listen without always trying to protect my current comfortable position? What if God wanted me to move beyond feeling at home somewhere to trusting that my true home is wherever God calls me to be?

In the end, Lauren and I didn’t make the decision to leave a church we loved because we were running away from some nagging dysfunction or an under-the-surface sense of disappointment. We weren’t bored. We didn’t choose to leave a church we loved because we’d convinced ourselves that a new church would be a better “career move.” We weren’t shopping around. We didn’t choose to leave a church we loved because we were able to fully answer all the questions we carry in our hearts. We simply decided to listen. We tried to hear God out.

And in end, I hope we chose to leave a church we loved because we were convinced that God had clearly been preparing us to help meet the challenges and opportunities a different church in the kingdom was facing.

I hope we chose to leave a church we loved because we felt God’s call to move past primarily receiving blessing to trying our best to also be a blessing.

I hope we chose to leave a church we loved, because the Lord said to Abram, “Go.” And Abram went. And so must we.

I know that sometimes – maybe even most of the time – God calls many of us to stay. I’m not saying that God is constantly calling all of us to “Go.”

All I’m saying is that we always need to be willing to listen. No matter what.

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/08/27/leave-a-church-you-love-by-jarrod-robinson/#ixzz3BbeYCnhs

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The Risk of Love & the Source of Evil

The Risk of Love & the Source of Evil
26 Aug 2014 From ReKnew by Greg Boyd
- See more at: http://reknew.org/2014/08/the-risk-of-love-the-source-of-evil/#sthash.XbFq5EYJ.dpuf

On Sunday Greg tweeted the following:

Love IS a tremendous risk. But if humans ever concluded the risk was not worth it, we likely become extinct rather quickly. …

Yes, love is risky. It costs us everything, and we sometimes get terribly hurt. But it’s this risk that “makes the world go round.” …

And it seems to me that, once we accept that the risk inherent in love is worth it– for us AND for GOD–the problem of evil is resolved.

Here are some further reflections of Greg’s on the risk of love.

While there will always be a great deal of mystery as to why specific evil events transpire the way they do, the Bible does give us an answer as to how evil originates. It has to do with this precious and dangerous thing called free will.

God could have easily created a world in which nothing evil could never happen. But this world would not have been capable of love. Certainly God could have preprogrammed agents to say loving things and to act in loving ways. He could even have preprogrammed these automatons to believe they were choosing to love. But these preprogrammed agents would not genuinely be loving. Love can only be genuine if it’s freely chosen. Which means, unless a personal agent has the capacity to choose against love, they don’t really have the capacity to choose for it.

In fact, if you think deeply about it, I think you’ll agree that the concept of a “preprogrammed lover “ is completely meaningless,—similar to the concept of a “married bachelor” or a “round triangle.” The reason God can’t create these things is not that he lacks any power, but because a “married bachelor” and a “round triangle” are self-contradictory. They’re equivalent to nothingness, so it’s no limitation on God to say he can’t create them. So too, the reason God can’t create a “preprogrammed lover” is because the very idea of an agent who is capable of love but not capable of choosing against love is meaningless.

So, if God’s primary purpose in creation is raising up a people who are capable of receiving and reflecting his love and carrying out his will “on earth as it is in heaven,” these people will have to have the potential to choose against love. The same is true of angels. And this is how all evil originates. The price of the possibility of love is freedom, and with freedom comes the possibility of evil.

Though some Christians unfortunately think God’s will includes evil, the Bible depicts sin as evil precisely because it constitutes a rejection of God’s will. For example, Scripture says that the lawyers and Sadducees of Jesus’ day sin because they “rejected God’s purpose for themselves” (Lk 7:30, emphasis added). So too, through Isaiah the Lord says to the children of Israel:

Oh, rebellious children, says the LORD,

who carry out a plan, but not mine;

who make an alliance, but against my will,

adding sin to sin. (Is. 30:1, emphasis added)

As C.S. Lewis noted in Mere Christianity, this is the most amazing aspect of creation: the omnipotent God created beings who have the capacity to reject him. He could have created a world that necessarily conforms to his every whim, but while this sort of creation would obviously be devoid of any evil or suffering, it also would be devoid of love.

This only touches the surface on what the Bible has to say about free will. I’ll say more in tomorrow’s post.
- See more at: http://reknew.org/2014/08/the-risk-of-love-the-source-of-evil/#sthash.XbFq5EYJ.dpuf

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This Morning at Mercy Church

Beloved Church,

I write to let you know, I/we announced our intention to resign the lead pastor role at Mercy Church this fall. We are waiting on a few items to come together before announcing a final date - but it's looking like mid-late October. We will have plenty of time to make our Fall launch successful and to say good-bye in small groups, coffee, lunch, etc.

We have poured our lives, our resources, our talents into Mercy Church since before it was a church! Sensing a pull of the Spirit we want to leave well and focus on the niche things that make Mercy Church a powerful blessing and alternative in the church community in Sioux Falls.

I will post the message and transition message online tomorrow at www.mercychurch.org/resources

We call on everyone to pray, to step up to leadership, to engage at a whole new level. I will not take my foot off the gas and coast - there's too much at stake for the Kingdom of God - until we leave.

Keep on being a place where questioners and believers come together around Jesus. Where we belong, question, share and grow. Where we value Evangelicalism, Spirit-filled, and Anabaptist teachings.

The best is yet to come for all!


Shel and Anne Boese

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6 Things Every Strong Community Needs Community doesn’t always come naturally. Here are a few ways to start developing a strong one

“I think community has to be organic,” said the guy across the room.

6 Things Every Strong Community Needs
Community doesn't always come naturally.
Here are a few ways to start developing a strong one.

By Marisa Barnett August 18, 2014

Native of Lancaster County, PA, Marisa lives in Cape Town, South Africa where she serves with Paradigm Shift, a nonprofit organization that alleviates poverty by training and discipling the poor. Marisa blogs at ineedwords.com.

Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/6-things-every-strong-community-needs#OxAwX3ItxZwE17BO.99

I cringed and sucked in a deep breath. My heart picked up pace. My body always responds this way when something severely rubs me the wrong way.

As someone who had just left my community and moved across the ocean, the comment felt like a slap in the face.

The initial response in my head was defensive. Easy for you to say since you come from a well-known ministry. Community isn’t so organic when you’re changing cultures.

But my heart response was more along the lines of, What’s wrong with me? Why has it been anything BUT organic for me? Why do I have to try so hard?

For a long time, community seemed organic for me. I had lifelong friends that had been playing by my side since before we could talk. I had more recent friends that quickly became kindred spirits.

Community isn’t always as natural as we think it is.

But when I moved, community was my biggest struggle, and it hasn’t been easy. Not because people aren’t friendly, not because people in my new city don’t have community, but because community isn’t always as natural as we think it is.

I used to think all I need is God. And that the loneliness I’ve struggled with is just helping me to turn to God instead of relying too much on people. There is some truth to that. But the truth is our hearts need more than an individual relationship with God.

In Genesis 1, God creates the world. At the end of each new creation, God calls it good. Then God creates Adam.

So there’s Adam, living in what the most beautiful place there has ever been on earth. Adam walks with God. There is no sin separating him from God. He has all the food he needs. He knows nothing of shame or pain or sadness. He’s in paradise. Adam has it all.

And then, for the first time since the world has been created, God sees that something is not good. He says in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helper suitable for him.”

Again, Adam has everything. A perfect relationship with God. Plenty of food. A safe and beautiful environment. Everything is working how it was created to work. And yet, it’s not enough.

This scenario isn’t just about marriage. Jesus, who was the perfect man, the “second Adam,” was single. But this speaks to a larger need we all have: A need for relationships and for community. We weren’t meant to be alone. In fact God says, “it is not good.”

Community is a buzzword, but it’s easier said than done. And often it’s more talked about than it is practiced.

As I’ve worked to develop community, I’ve learned that there are a few things every strong community needs:

  • Intentionality
  • Community has to be intentional. Even if it starts organically, it still has to be maintained.

    The community that Jesus formed with His 12 disciples was intentional. It wasn’t organic. It’s very unlikely that a tax collector and a fisherman would have naturally come together had Jesus not called them both. And there are decidedly some moments of tension within the group. It wasn’t this group of guys that just understood one another’s hearts and agreed on everything and sat by the fire singing kumbaya. They bickered, they disagreed, and they resented each other at times. But they became a community that multiplied and changed the world.

  • Diversity
  • Community can’t just be with people we feel comfortable with, who completely understand us and believe the same things as us.

    This is what I love about church families. The diversity, the differences, all of these imperfect people that come from different walks of life and yet share one common love: Jesus.

  • A Willingness to Embrace Awkwardness
  • Developing community can be awkward. I’ve learned that creating community means pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, my insecurities and my discouragements. It can mean awkward conversations, refused invitations, miscommunication and expectations not matching reality.

  • Openness
  • Invite others in. Come as you are and you’ll find me as I am.

    One of the best ways I’ve found in creating community is inviting people into my life, and into my home. Letting people see our imperfections (and our imperfect homes and meals), helps others to feel more free to be themselves. There is nothing like bonding over a flopped cake or an embarrassing moment.

    I’ve learned that creating community means pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, my insecurities and my discouragements.

  • The Ability to Have Fun Together
  • Create a memory. Stop just going out for coffee. While I love going out for coffee, coffee dates are better for maintaining relationships than starting new ones.

    Do something that will create a memory and bring people around a common cause. Whether it’s hiking a new trail or getting people together to raise awareness for a social justice issue or organizing a game night, initiate activities that will bring people together.

  • Inclusiveness
  • Expand your community. Don’t create cliques, create community. Always be expanding your community and looking for new people to invite in.

    Creating community has been an up and down process for me. I’ve had to work to put aside fear, laziness and anything that keeps me from stepping out and pursuing relationships. I’ve learned that I have to let go of self-preservation and self-criticism.

    Through community, and these new people God has brought in and out of my life, I’m encountering God in new ways and growing in ways I never could have without community.

    Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/6-things-every-strong-community-needs#OxAwX3ItxZwE17BO.99

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    Coffee With Jesus

    I have to say I really like Coffee with Jesus by Radio Free Babylon.


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    In Light of Robin Williams Death and Battles with Depression

    I want to share with you a powerful and important word from a former Mercy Churcher Darla Earnest.

    Darla has given me permission to share this. I appreciate her doing what we all need to do to help others.

    Truly, hurt people, keep hurting people. But healing people help heal people. I was reminded of this from both ends (fortunately and unfortunately) this week.

    "I struggle to share this so publicly, but am compelled to in light of recent events. Swallowing my pride may help someone else.

    One of the best things I ever do in life is when I admit I have a problem and seek a solution. The same was true of depression. I wasn't sure what was wrong, but I knew something was wrong. I had no hope, was listless and the smallest task overwhelmed me. This lasted a while--too long--and would come and go over the course of years. All I knew in those times was that EVERYTHING was terrible--& I was so disappointed in myself. I often stopped functioning. I finally sought help. I wish I had years before.

    Seeking help from qualified professionals is NOT a sin, it is NOT the same as saying God can't heal me. Quite the contrary. Admitting my weakness and going to those whom He has gifted to be His hands and feet was precisely how He began to heal me. Anything less would have been pure pride on my part, not a "more spiritual" way of dealing with it.

    Don't listen to the lies--even from well-meaning Jesus-followers. Don't hesitate. I have been there and I follow Jesus more passionately now that I have been helped and healed. Get help if you have ANY concerns at all. He has gifted people who can point you to His healing and help you out of the pit." - D.E.

    Bruce and Darla taught at the University of South Dakota in the Fine Arts department. They were part of the Mercy Church family and moved to the University of Mobile, AL where she teaches Voice Professor and Bruce is Associate Dean and Associate Professor, School of Music and Performing Arts. They also run a summer school in Europe to bridge Fine Arts, young people and the Kingdom of God.

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    If Your Kids Are Gamers … Best Vacation, Er, Teaching Op Ever


    Swedish man took his sons to the middle of a war-zone to teach them a lesson that "war isn't cool".

    When Carl-Magnus Helgegren, a journalist and university teacher, noticed his 10 and 11 year-old sons were obsessed with the shoot-em-up video game series, Call of Duty, he then decided to take his children – Frank and Leo – to Israel, the West Bank and Syria in order...http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/swedish-dad-took-his-kids-israel-palestine-syria-teach-them-war-isnt-cool-1460923?utm_medium=social

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    Mercy Churchers Serving Globally…

    SIM Ebola Work Great to hear from one of our Mercy Churchers who works in Africa 8 months of the year with community health. She shared this AM at Mercy Men's Monthly breakfast. Join us tomorrow at 10am to hear more from Susan McDonald. Her compassion ministry group SIM is running one of the hospitals in the news related to the Ebola outbreak. http://www.sim.org/ ‪#‎jesusmotivatedcompassion‬

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    Leaving Calvinism: Keith Coward’s Story

    Leaving Calvinism: Keith Coward’s Story
    Aug 4, 2014 by Scot McKnight

    This paragraph is revealing and over the years I’ve heard this so many times… I have italicized the words that reflect a common set of categories used to explain anyone not a Calvinist. We get no where when Calvinists — and not all are like this — claim non-Calvinists don’t have the stomach for the full counsel of God. This is a bundle of non-falsifiable logic: if they agree it’s because it’s true; if they don’t it’s because it’s true and they don’t accept it.

    But several things eventually led to me reconsider the views of almost all my teachers, colleagues, friends, and heroes. The first was that an acquaintance gave me a copy of a book written by a “Reformed Arminian”. I read it out of curiosity, and though it did not persuade me in the least it did challenge my prejudice against Arminians. Scripture seemed clear about RT, so I had assumed that anyone who denied it was either ignorant or insolent. Some had not read the Bible carefully enough and others just could not stomach God as he revealed himself to be. But this book offered a clear alternative to Calvinism and intelligently interacted with its favorite proof texts. The author did not convince me, but he did give me a new category: there were non-Calvinists who had taken the Bible to heart and honestly believed that it taught God’s desire to save all…

    And here he says the Bible itself tipped him over the edge:

    The third thing that set me on the course to reject RT was the thing that had led me into it – Scripture itself. As a pastor I preached through books of the Bible verse by verse. Occasionally I would encounter a common Calvinistic proof text and realize that it did not necessarily say what I had thought it said. John 3 does not necessarily teach that regeneration precedes faith; John 10 does not necessarily teach that Jesus died only for the elect; Eph 1 does not necessarily teach that God ordained whatever happens; 1 Pet 1 does not necessarily teach that God elected individuals for salvation – unconditionally, effectually, exclusively. Once again, these discoveries did not shake my confidence in RT. There were too many passages that clearly taught it; I considered Romans 9 impregnable to Arminian assault. But I realized that the quantity of verses used to support my view did not matter if, upon closer scrutiny, they could not bear the weight that we Calvinists were putting on them on a case-by-case basis….

    That was a turning point in my life. For the first time I said, “Whatever it cost me (and I knew it could cost me everything), I want to know the truth.” I spent the next year and a half going back through Scripture, reading books on both sides of the issue, listening to debates and lectures, praying fervently, studying passages, and meditating deeply. Gradually, my questions about RT turned into doubts, and by the end of 2013 I realized that my doubts had turned into disbelief. I had not fully reconstructed my theology, but it was clear that I no longer found Calvinism coherent, much less biblical….

    Finally, I lost my livelihood and have not yet recovered it. There have been seasons of desperation and even anger as I’ve asked why the Lord led me down this path that seems to lead nowhere. But he has provided for my family abundantly, and he has reminded me to worry not about how I’m going to pay the bills, but what pleases him (Prov 3:5-6; Matt 6:33).

    In the end, this journey has not been about having the right answers, but following Jesus. I differ from some Arminians when I say that if, when I meet the Lord, I discover that Calvinists were right after all, I will fall on my face in worship, savor the sacrifice that covers sins committed in ignorance, and trust him for the grace to love him as he is. I am not seeking a man-centered religion more palatable to my ego, but have followed him down this path because I am zealous for his honor as a loving God, a just God, and a God who is so sovereign that he can make creatures who, like himself, are not scripted . . . but free and thus capable of loving and being loved by him. What I have found is a God that actually lives up to the glorious God preached by Calvinists.

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