Monday, February 11, 2008

On an iniquitously cold Sunday night The Epicenter Church met for the first time. Of course, this was not the first gathering of our church family…but it was the first in our new building and the first while known as The Epicenter. The cold kept many of our friends at home, especially those who had a bit of a drive to make. My email inbox had several messages waiting for me when I got in from several folks…I bet a third or so couldn’t make it cause the conditions where potentially hazardous. And man…it was. I think around 6pm it was around 5 degrees outside with a wind-chill in the negative teens I’m sure. Plus, it wasn't just way below freezing, the wind was demented and wicked tonight. It was brutal out there…I knew attendance would be down.

But a handful gathered together for worship and it was great. We had Mark and Jody Jones join us, which was a blessing! Mark is the pastor (and founder) of True Hope Community Fellowship in Navarre. I was also blessed to have my friends Zac (a featured commenter, analyst and Eastern Orthodox correspondent here, lol), his sweet and lovely wife Arlie and their friend (and now ‘my’ friend, truly) Mark who I think I’ll nickname “Saint Mark” for strange reasons which I don’t know. Every now and then I just nickname people for no apparent reason.

Attendance was down…but the Spirit was not. It was great to worship our Lord together again and to finally feel like we have a home to do it in. I am so grateful for the generosity of Ridgewood Baptist Church in allowing us such full access to their church building for worship. On top of that, their trusty and faithful deacon, brother Rob Snyder, has agreed to help us with the sound and tech stuff. Rob is becoming a good friend…I always admire guys like him. Men who just do what God has called them to do, mostly behind the scenes…but guys who are indispensable in the church.

I was a bit fired up tonight. I hadn’t really preached much in a couple months. Our church family was meeting in homes while we figured out where we would end up. I felt (perhaps) like the ancient Hebrew Prophet Jeremiah when he said that “But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” Yeah…I had the fire in me like a pressure cooker and once I started to let it out…yikes, hang on! Let’s just say that wasn’t the most “seeker sensitive” message I’ve ever preached in my life. A bunch of us hit the local Applebee’s after we tore everything down and a couple of the guys were really busting my chops. They couldn’t remember when, exactly, the last time I told people that they needed to “…either serve the Lord or get out of this church!” LOL!

Yeah…I said that. And I heard about it at “the bees”. One of the guys said, “man…I was gonna get up and leave when you said that but I was afraid you’d get mad and yell at me to sit back down!” Everyone cracked up, as is the case whenever we hit Applebees for fellowship! These punks I have to pastor have no respect, it's outrageous! Of course that rather harsh and strange statement I made in the message fit somewhat fairly into the context of the passage from which I was preaching. I preached from 1 Kings 18…the showdown of Elijah and the 450 false prophets of Baal. Elijah told the people “if the Lord is God then serve Him…if Baal is God then serve him…” I said it would be like if a Prophet walked in and told us, "you people either serve the Lord or get out of this church!”

As usual, the musical worship was loud, raw and passionate…just like we love it! We don’t come gather for a pep talk and nifty pop music…it’s about worship and I’m so thrilled to see how God is cultivating a longing for repentance and worship in our church family. That small group cried out for a taste of heaven and those who sought…found. It was refreshing.

I have felt that we needed to add an element to our worship gathering which I think we’ll introduce every Sunday night. We ended with extended silence. We live in a culture of constant noise and distraction…how often do we ever just sit in near silence? Well…we tried it tonight. With just a few instructions we all sat there and quieted our minds a bit and focused on God in prayer and mediation. It was pretty powerful and it was only for a few minutes. It’s amazing how long a few minutes can seem when there is no noise.

I should also not fail to mention that our childrens church...called "Little Tremors" had a great time in worship as well. The kids are with the adults for the first two songs of worship and are dismissed for their lesson. I think we had as many kids as adults tonight...which was great given the weather! We always have a high percentage of kids in Sunday's a good sign and I'm thrilled to see it!

I’m pumped. This is going to work out great for our young and fledgling community of faith. Obviously it would have been really cool for most if not all of us to be together this first Sunday in our new location. Numbers do matter (why else would the gospel writers and Apostles have recorded attendance at various events?)…they indicate the impact and influence a congregation is having in its community. That will come and I’m sure we’ll get back to normal next week…and continue to grow. I’m excited about our first Aftershocks this week. Aftershocks are prayer and discussion groups which get together to…uh…pray and discuss the passage which was preached the previous Sunday. So that is going to be very cool.

Keep us in prayer…we need the prayers and you need more practice!

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