If you consider our current news cycles, you know that our world needs better stories than what we are currently seeing, hearing, and reading.
The truth is that you have a better story than the world could ever report.
I do, too.
We all have a story about how someone in another generation influenced or helped us understand our relationship with Jesus. And each of us probably has a story about how we are influencing or helping somebody else understand their relationship with Jesus, too.
Can I be honest with you? Sometimes I get so busy and distracted that I don’t take time to share those inspirational, life-changing moments with anybody. I bet you can relate.
So how do we begin sharing more of these kinds of stories?
I see 2 barriers that hold us back and 3 bridges that will help us get started sharing powerful stories of what God is doing in and through every generation of people.
Barrier #1: We intuitively believe that we need to sell Jesus.
In a culture that thrives on marketing, appearances, and sales being the primary indicator of success, it’s no surprise that we translate that into our spiritual lives, too.
I remember from an early age hearing about how we need to make sure we advertise church events, worship services, and put on a good face and show for Jesus.
Why? Because I believed that Jesus was sending me off for him.
Intuitively, I think that to a degree, we all feel this pressure to "perform for Jesus" (as if Jesus needs us).
Have you ever felt that pressure?
Barrier #2: We fear being rejected, judged, and condemned.
Deep down inside all of us is a desire to be connected to a greater purpose and to other people. It’s how God made us. . . to be connected to and love Him and love and care for His creation.
So, when it comes to sharing stories of Jesus’ life change either in our lives or other people’s lives, there is a part of us that fears rejection.
Simply put, we never want to be a loner (or weird!).
Have you ever been afraid of being a loner (or a weird-o) because of your faith?
Bridge #1: Point out where Jesus is alive… everywhere and in everybody!
What I missed was that Jesus wasn’t sending me off for him… Jesus is sending me off with him.
We were never told and we are not meant to sell Jesus to people. Jesus is not a product to be bartered, sold, traded, or given away. Jesus always gave everything of his away - his life - to us and to the world.
What a relief! Let’s let Jesus do Jesus work.
We are sent with Jesus not to sell his forgiveness, life, and salvation - but to point out where His freedom in forgiveness, life identity, and forever hope is making a difference in an increasingly dark and broken world.
Where do you see freedom, secure identity, and hope in the lives of people (or in yourself!)?
Those are the stories that we want to share!
Bridge #2: Ask yourself, what good can I celebrate in people and the world?
This is more than having a “glass half full” mindset. Jesus said that the fields are ripe for harvest (John 4:35). That means that Jesus’ good work is already done. It’s time to gather it, give it away, and enjoy what God has done for us!
Sometimes I think we fall into the trap of needing to produce something good in somebody else. We need to invest in our kids. We need to teach our grandchildren. We need to show others the Jesus way. And while there is some truth to the fact that God uses people as His hands, feet, and voice - God’s Spirit is already at work for good.
When we share stories of the good that we see in people and the world, we’re really pointing out where God has worked. Every good gift comes from God. So, let’s share it!
What good do you see in people and the world today?
Bridge #3: When in doubt, share how you feel loved by God and others.
Sometimes we need to experience what we want to share.
Who has made you feel loved and accepted?
Share the story of how and why you feel that way.
Today, I want to share with you what to expect over the next 40 days, how we are applying the rapidly changing guidance with love and honor, and why we are choosing to do it.
What to Expect Over the Next 40 Days
Different Comfort Levels
We know that everybody has different comfort levels when it comes to gathering with other people. That’s normal. And, it’s to be expected.
No Temperature Checks
Beginning immediately, we will not be requesting temperature checks as you enter our facilities.
Limited Capacity - Related Procedures
However, registration, check in, and physical distancing procedures will remain in place until we transition from limited capacity to full capacity.
Hospitality Food & Beverages
We are currently learning about how to offer safe ways to socialize around food and beverages and expect to create these spaces soon.
Our plan is to continue using prepackaged communion elements and re-evaluate this in the fall.
Because the current guidance regarding wearing facemasks would create a divisive dichotomy between vaccinated and unvaccinated persons and considering the fact that the guidance does not conflict with God's Word, we ask that facemasks are worn both indoors and outdoors while on-campus.
How We Apply Guidelines with Love and Honor
It's Always About Jesus' Mission
Jesus' mission for us is clear: we are disciples who make disciples who love God, love people, and live like Jesus.
We are the family of Jesus so that people who do not yet have a faith family have a place to be invited into and experience love and belonging.
Embracing Opportunity in the Challenge
As the world becomes more divided. This is indeed a big challenge. However, we as Jesus’ church have the opportunity to stand more united.
Jesus says it best as He prays that we may become perfectly one.
Why? So that the world may know that Jesus loves them (John 17:21). And I know that Jesus’ love has changed me. It has certainly changed you, too.
Love Changes Everything
In this unique moment, when we gather together on-campus, I believe that the best way that we can love God, love people, and live like Jesus is to freely and joyfully choose to stand together unified in Jesus and not in individual choices.
Everybody Wins When We Honor Each Other
We all win when we choose to honor each other by placing our freedom of individual choice aside for others, we level dichotomies and diffuse division.
We also all win when we honor the guidance from those whom God has placed in authority over us - in so far as it doesn't conflict with God's Word or lead us to sin.
Indeed, how good and pleasant it is when we live together in unity (Psalm 133:1).
Why We Are Choosing to Do This?
We Have a Choice
We always have a choice and in freedom and joy, we choose unity over division. We will not allow facemasks or guidelines to divide who God has brought together here at Our Savior and in our greater Pierce County community.
We Promote Unity
The current guidance regarding wearing facemasks would create a divisive dichotomy between vaccinated and unvaccinated persons. Creating two different sections of people and checking vaccination cards does not promote unity.
We Honor Authority
We do not believe that the current guidance conflicts with God's Word nor does it lead us to sin.
Jesus' Mission Is Greater
God's Work is too valuable for us to loose influence over guidelines. I know this decision does not make everybody happy and I certainly know that not everybody agrees with it. I also know that biblical unity is not defined as human happiness or social agreement. Rather, biblical unity looks like a shared conviction that Jesus is our Lord and Savior and that Jesus’ mission is so much greater than this issue and much longer enduring than this present moment.
We will Continue to Wisely and Safely Adapt
We will continue to monitor further guidance as it is released and will adapt in wise and safe ways.
Every summer, kids gather for Vacation Bible School (VBS).
Gregarious games. Sweet and savory snacks. Magnanimous music. Creative crafts. Bodacious Bible stories. Kids would leave the week-long extravaganza with t-shirts, CD’s (remember those?), and new friends.
I think you would agree that historically, Vacation Bible School (VBS) has been primarily for kids.
And as with most things, VBS is not exempt from the “Butterfly Effect” of a global pandemic.
So, this year - what if everybody gets to play at VBS?
Here are three ways that VBS isn’t just for kids, anymore.
Love Kids and Everybody Wins
This one might seem obvious, but it’s a big one.
I learned early on in ministry that the key to every parent’s heart is their most important thing: their kids.
And then, when I became a parent, I learned that kids are not just the key to a parent’s heart - kids become their heartbeat. I mean, there are few things I wouldn’t consider doing to love my kid. And, when other people love my kids, they don’t just have my attention - they have my love, too.
Want to show a parent that they’re loved? Love their kids.
In our current cultural moment, it seems like almost every parent is at least concerned, if not worried and absolutely terrified about how their child is faring and how they will be changed by the past year of uncertainty. The disruptions in schooling, friendships, parent’s job schedules, most likely the death of somebody they know, and if they attended church - Sunday mornings will certainly shape the younger generation because let’s face it - the last 15 months might be all they know of memorable life.
So, yes, VBS is one of the staple, stable, and predictable experiences for many. And that kind of consistency is the key to not just a child’s overall health, but to a parent’s or grandparent’s heart.
Plus, VBS is still very much a perceived safe space in our world (at least, for now).
When you love other people’s kids, everybody wins.
This year, kids, students, and adults get to experience VBS, together either onsite, online, or in their neighborhoods.
Parent(s) hear about God’s love from their kids. Siblings want in on the new games they learned. Parent(s) get the songs stuck in their heads as they hear the music over, and over, and over again. And if the kids make new friends - bring on the playdates!
Want to love parents? Love their kids.
Neighborhoods are the New Church Buildings (at least right now)
That sounds weird, doesn’t it?
Hang with me and allow me to explain what I mean.
Even when restrictions are completely lifted, it will take time for life to return to “normal”. Some even say, we will need to establish a “new normal”. I’m not here to debate which one is more likely. I’m simply saying that I’m not expecting the rush of people to return to any institution, concert venue, or in our case, church building.
I could be wrong, but my sense is that the return to church buildings will be more like the gradual flow of a creek rather than a gushing Rainier waterfall.
This is all to say that the people who would ordinarily gather at a church building for VBS are still living in their neighborhoods. They eat, sleep, play, do yard work, clean their garage, and spend quite a bit of time up and down the same streets you and I live on.
And this is good news.
Everybody who needs to experience God’s love for them are within 500 feet of you.
Paul puts it this way: Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16, ESV).
Indeed, your neighborhood is the new church building. And your neighbors (in a way) live at church.
Why? Because you’re there.
So, if kids used to attend VBS at a church building, and if the new church building is in your neighborhood - then grabbing a few other families and friends to host a VBS in your neighborhood is an incredibly powerful and effective way that God has invited you into His game of loving Him back, loving people around you, and living like Jesus.
You can reach out to Dereem to learn more about hosting a neighborhood VBS in August.
Everybody is Online
The world changed in 2007. In an instant, all of the world’s greatest inventions were in the palm of your hand. The good and the not so good were now accessible within moments. And nobody else would need to know what you’re reading, looking at, or watching because it was on your phone.
Fast forward 14 years later and almost everybody we know has a smartphone. We bank with it. We register for classes. We talk to family. We document our meals. We go to the doctor. We get counseling. So much of what we do everyday could be done or is done on or through our phones.
Simple point: everybody is online.
Mark records Jesus saying, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15, ESV). Let’s be honest, we don’t need to go very far. In fact, I don’t even need to move (as I type this) to “go” into all the world.
Our VBS content will be made available online for you to share and invite other people you know to share.
Sharing “Jesus stuff” can be intimidating. We’re afraid of what others might say or think. We prepare ourselves for a potential adverse response or reaction because we aren’t sure where those we may invite are when it comes to “Jesus stuff”. So, we go back and forth wallowing in doubt and worry until we either give up, forget, or something a little bit “less controversial” comes up to forward on our social media feeds.
The Zero Property applies in both math and invitations. I remember my 3rd grade math teacher saying, “if you multiply anything by zero, you get zero”. Likewise, if nobody invites anybody to consider "Jesus stuff" online, then nobody may ever consider Jesus an anybody.
Zero attempts will always result in zero opportunities.
While sharing our online VBS content might be a “passive” way to be part of God’s greater story of love in somebody else’s life, it can be powerful and life-changing.
Just think, an entire family could be changed by Jesus’ love through VBS that would change the eternal destiny of their future generations. All because you and they were both online in a time such as this.
My friend Greg often reminds me that we are not Jesus salespeople going around and "selling" Jesus. We don't advertise Jesus. We don't sell Jesus. We are Jesus followers who show others where Jesus is alive and working in us and others, our communities and world, online and in-person.
Sharing online VBS content when it's released later this summer on your feed, via email, or however else you can share it doesn't "sell" Jesus - you are following Jesus into a place (online) where Jesus already is working. You simply get to join Jesus in what He is already doing... even online.
Can you think of other ways people besides kids can "play" at VBS?
Send me a note and let me know.
This weekend is Mother’s Day.
So, let’s be honest: It’s OK to feel what you feel.
Happy. Mad. Sad. Glad. And every emotion in between - God made you, you - and God made you to feel what you feel. Own it and see it as a gift from God.
And, to clear the air: Mother’s Day is not a Christian, religious, or even faith-based holiday.
In other words, you will not find Jesus celebrating Mother’s Day in the Gospels. Search the Scriptures and this kind of day isn’t anywhere to be found in the Hebrew Religion or Early Church.
Now, I’m not anti-Mother’s Day. I will be calling my mom and mother-in-law this weekend. My kids will be making cards for them. And, the boys and I will be treating Beth to a day full of love to honor her for how much she gives to us.
However, when it comes to loving and living like Jesus, I want to level the playing field because not every person who wants to be a mom is a mom. I also know that everybody doesn’t have a positive mom-experience. And (I've heard from some moms) that as wonderful motherhood can be, it’s one of the most difficult and challenging experiences of their lives. It’s exhausting. It’s overwhelming. There is no instruction book. It's all on-the-job training.
It’s certainly safe to say that without the Holy Spirit’s help (from the Christian perspective), it’s impossible to have a mom or be a mom.
I’ll just let that thought sit with you today.
So, here are three things about Mother's Day that will help all of us love and live more like Jesus: Remember, Dream, and Celebrate.
When Jesus remembers what might have been, Jesus wept (John 11:35).
Sometimes crying it out ourselves or allowing others around us to cry out their memories is how we can love and live more like Jesus.
For those who are grieving the loss of a mom or child, sad about not being a mom, or angry about not having a mom when you needed one… The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). You can love others like Jesus by taking some time to remember the people you gave life to and know that God is not far - in fact, nothing can separate us from the love of God that is found in Jesus (Romans 8:38-39).
Believe it or not, God is always looking at what is ahead. God’s plans are not always our plans (Isaiah 55:8-9) - but it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have a plan (Jeremiah 29:11).
Sometimes dreaming about what is on God’s mind with others is how we can love and live more like Jesus.
For those who are dreaming of motherhood… Dreaming about being a mom who gives life to other people is a God-dream! Remember that after God made humanity, people were blessed and God said, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).
Don’t lose God’s dream that He has given to you. Place the dream you have into God’s hands and entrust your plan to His… remember God’s plan is always better than our own (even when it doesn’t seem like it).
Those who are/have been foster children or adopted/have been adopted… you may not know who your mom was. You may even assume that your mom was an evil person. Being adopted myself, when I fall into this kind of thinking, I have learned that more often than not, it’s my own fear of being completely loved and totally accepted that is clouding my mind and messing with my heart. In those moments, I’m reminded of Isaiah 43:1: “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine”.
Keep dreaming and remember that “the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).
For those who have mom’s alive today… for those who have children today… for all mom-like people who give us life… we celebrate you. The Psalm writer says: give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever (Psalm 107:1).
One way to celebrate moms and mom-like people today is to thank them for teaching you about God’s love for you. For taking you to church. For helping introduce you to Jesus. For showing you a glimpse of what God’s love looks like as mom gives, and gives, and then gives more life to you.
I think it might be safe to say that we all have someone who is a mom or has been mom-like to us. These are people to celebrate well today. Indeed, God’s love through them lasts forever.
Meet Pastor Tim
Tim Bayer has served as Our Savior's Lead Pastor since September 2019. He also serves as an Adjunct Instructor at Concordia University - Irvine, a National Leadership Facilitator and Resource, and a Community Mental Health First Aid Instructor.