I spent the weekend attending our Central Conference Annual Meeting (aka “Celebration!”) at Glen Ellyn Covenant Church up in Chicago, and everyone up there says to say “Hi!” to all of you. Well, actually, Pete Sjoblom’s first words to me when I walked in the door were, “Man, you look old!” but they were all much nicer about all of you...
For the record, I’ve earned every single one of these gray hairs in my beard, so there.
I had the opportunity to sit in on a breakout session with ECC Church Planting Director Alex Rahill, who argued that every healthy church needs to have in place and regularly assess seven interacting systems (nestled within three overarching ministry areas of “Know,” “Grow,” and “Go”) in order to be and remain healthy: Outreach, Worship, Connections, Small Groups, Ministry/Mission, Stewardship, and Leadership Development. If we don’t actively work on developing and assessing these parts of our church ministries, then--like any organism whose systems begin to falter--we will start to become unhealthy in all of these areas. So please be in prayer with us as a church family about how we can continue to grow in these areas.
In our message this week, our trek through “The Bible--The Musical!” began to shift into a minor key (but let’s be honest--have you ever seen a movie that didn’t have some sort of conflict or complication pop up at some point?). The prophets in the Old Testament had a tendency to slip into song more often than most of us tend to realize (in fact, there’s a good chance that you didn’t realize that about 1/3 of your Bible was written in metered verse--either poetry or song--though we tend not to think about that when we’re reading or quoting things), and Isaiah was no exception.
In Isaiah 5, he sang a song about the vineyard that God had planted (i.e.; the people of God)... and how disappointed God was in how things were turning out. Though He’d planted and cultivated the finest grapevines, the only crop that came out it is was rotted, wild grapes--the people were far more focused on personal comfort and immediate gains to seriously consider whether or not they were really honoring God in their lives. So God was going to allow briars and thorns and wild animals to overtake His vineyard--He was actively withdrawing His protection from His people.
But later, Isaiah sang a sequel to that song in chapters 25-27, where we find out that all of the horror from chapter 5 was intended to bring God’s children back to Him--that He was disciplining them as any loving Father would. But God wasn’t just singing about His desire to redeem His vineyard (His people) back, but also to redeem those briars and thorns (the rest of the world) as well! He wants to reach us and challenge us and change us, not out of His anger, but out of His love.
We ended with a bit of poetry or song from Proverbs 3:11-12, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”
So maybe stop and ask God if there’s anything in you and your life that He might want to prune or cultivate, and let Him do a little work in you today.