Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Becoming a church. Yay, God!

On Sunday, November 12 the Presbytery of Twin Cities Area lead worship at Chain of Lakes where we celebrated that Chain of Lakes made the transition from a New Church Development to an organized, Presbyterian Church.  Chain of Lakes is the newest Presbyterian church in Minnesota. 

To watch the service go to: https://vimeo.com/242512698

Is Chain of Lakes all that different now compared to before our group of people was chartered as a church?  In some ways no.  We are organized a bit different.  We now have Articles of Incorporation and Church Bylaws; soon we will be registered with the State of Minnesota and have separate, non-profit status with the Federal Government; we now have a Presbyterian PIN number. 

But a large group of people didn’t gather on November 12 to celebrate these organizational details.  A group gathered to celebrate that a new faith community is now a recognized church.  This transition is a reflection of the faith, perseverance, and determination of a group of people called Chain of Lakes Church.  We celebrated that the Presbytery decided to start and support a new church.  And we celebrated that God could a literal mustard seed and developed something very special.    

For three weeks in November the people of Chain of Lakes have celebrated.  We celebrated our brief history, our present, and our future.  Often we shared the story of seven families gathering in the Rice Lake Professional Building in February 2009 to meet with me, the Organizing Pastor.  The vision for that group on that day in February was to become a chartered church. 

As with all visions, many people doubted if the celebration on November 12 would ever take place.  For how does a group of seven families develop to a point where they are designated as a church?  How do they do that with a pastor who had only been to Blaine twice before that meeting?  At that time in my life Central was a direction and not a road; Radisson was a hotel and not a major street; the Lakes was plural for lake and not a housing development.  I didn’t know anything about Blaine.  

And now here we are an organized church with a very bright future. 

I will always remember this day that Chain of Lakes chartered.  I will remember the large sense of accomplishment that existed in our worship space; I will remember the many friends who came to be with us to celebrate; I will remember standing between my wife, Amy, and my daughter, Hannah, and share in the midst of tears how much I was thankful for their support.


Not too many people have the opportunity to start a church from virtually scratch.  I am humbled to have had this privilege.  God is very amazing!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Celebrating the Future at Chain of Lakes Church


This Sunday, November 19 the people of Chain of Lakes Church have the opportunity to share in worship their Estimate of Giving cards.  It's stewardship time!  And I love to talk about and write about stewardship.  The giving of finances is such an important part of each person's spiritual growth.  Because this stewardship drive is so important to the ministry of Chain of Lakes Church I have included a Question and Answer sheet on this blog.  This info was mailed last week to everyone at Chain of Lakes.  If you aren't part of Chain of Lakes, you can see what is happening right now.  Enjoy!

Celebrating the Future
Tell Me About “Celebrating the Future?’
“Celebrating the Future” is the name of the stewardship campaign at Chain of Lakes for 2017.

Why was that name chosen?
This is a time of celebration at Chain of Lakes Church.  Chain of Lakes will be transitioning from a New Church Development to an organized, Presbyterian church.  As Pastor Paul frequently says, “Yay, God!”  This is an accomplishment that every person who is part of Chain of Lakes can celebrate.  In worship, on the first three Sundays in November, Chain of Lakes will celebrate the past, present, and future. 

What is going well at Chain of Lakes right now?
·         The enthusiasm in worship has never been higher at Chain of Lakes.  Walk through the front door at Davenport on a Sunday morning and you will experience a wave of energy
·         Worship attendance has frequently been near capacity this fall 
·         Since September, Chain of Lakes organized two events on the church property where over 200 people attended each event
·         A large number of individuals and families with children have connected to Chain of Lakes
·         The wider community recognizes Chain of Lakes as THE church who supports homeless youth
·         The excitement about being a chartered, Presbyterian congregation is everywhere at Chain of Lakes

Once Chain of Lakes becomes a new church what will be the next steps? 
The next steps will be up to the Session, Ministry Teams, and staff to discern.  With continued growth in worship attendance it is likely that Chain of Lakes will move to two worship services at some point in the future.  Chain of Lakes will also make concrete plans  regarding a first-phase building on the church property.

When will Chain of Lakes be able to break ground on the property?
This is a question that is frequently asked.  Every time an event is done on the church property this question is asked by the people attending the event.  The fact that the question is asked so much shows the interest of the community in a building on the property.

The “Breaking Ground Task Force” is meeting regularly to determine a possible date for breaking ground on a first-phase building.  That task force will present a report at the Annual Meeting in January.  When that task force is done, a path for a building will be identified.

Is Chain of Lakes growing in numbers?
Yes.  Fourteen people connected to Chain of Lakes as disciples in 2017 with another group soon to join.  Average worship attendance in 2017 is 70 compared to 60 in 2016.

What new ministries have started in 2017?
With the hiring of Jonathan Smith as the new Director of Music, more music opportunities are available to youth.  In December Chain of Lakes is offering a musical involving youth in kindergarten through 12th grade. 

With the establishment of Deacons and the election of the first group of Deacons, additional congregational care is offered. 

What financial information is important to know?
Chain of Lakes continues to make progress towards financially supporting 100 percent of our ministry.  In 2017 the Chain of Lakes congregation is projected to financially support 80 percent of our ministry; in 2018 the goal is to financially support 90 percent. 

In 2018, outside financial support will diminish by at least $19,000 compared to 2017.  Chain of Lakes will have to increase revenues by that amount to keep the current level of ministry.

By becoming an organized congregation Chain of Lakes will now be financially responsible for insurance payments and Per Capita payments to the wider Presbyterian church.  With more people coming to Chain of Lakes, many Ministry Teams will increase their budget requests.  Each staff person at Chain of Lakes is working beyond their budgeted hours. Pay adjustments need to be made.

How can I help?
The people of Chain of Lakes are asked to consider helping in one of two ways:
1.  Consider increasing your Estimate of Giving to Chain of Lakes by 15 percent in 2018

2.  Consider increasing your Estimate of Giving in 2018.

This increase in each family’s Estimate of Giving along with the financial giving of people new to Chain of Lakes will allow Chain of Lakes to take these next steps.

Please note, all financial giving at Chain of Lakes is voluntary and confidential.  No one will be treated differently based on financial giving.

A video about the 2017 Stewardship Drive can be found at vimeo.com/chainoflakes/videos

Also—please consider giving through Direct Deposit.  This way of giving helps Chain of Lakes weather the ups and downs of cash flow. 

When am I asked to bring my Estimate of Giving card to worship?
Please bring your Estimate of Giving cards to worship on Sunday, November 19.  The theme for worship that day is “Celebrating the Future.”  Pastor Paul will share a vision for the future of Chain of Lakes. 

Anything else?
Please be in prayer for Chain of Lakes.  The future is very bright.  It can be even brighter as each of us discerns the direction for Chain of Lakes, our established church.

Please pray about your personal financial giving to Chain of Lakes.  God has some ideas about financial giving.  Be open to this direction.

And most of all, thanks!  Thanks for all that you have done to live out the Purpose Statement of Chain of Lakes Church:

We are called to be an authentic, Christian community where:
                Strangers become friends
                Friends become disciples
                Disciples impact the world



Friday, October 6, 2017

Attending Leadership Institute at Church of the Resurrection

Last week I had the privilege of attending Leadership Institute at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.  Leadership Institute is put on by Church of the Resurrection, the largest Methodist church in the United States.  This church was started in 1990 with four people—Adam Hamilton, his wife and their two young children. 

This is the fifth year I’ve taken a group from Chain of Lakes to the conference, (the tenth time--I think--I've attended myself) and it was the largest group we’ve had from our new congregation.  It was a privilege to attend with Sally Narr, Val Owens, Jonathan Smith, and Pam Van Meter.  Kathy Brevig would have attended, but she had an emergency appendix surgery two days before we were leaving.

This year Leadership Institute was made up of Pre-Institute sessions on Wednesday and then Leadership Institute on Thursday and Friday.  One difference this year was Leadership Institute was made up of five talks or plenary sessions by different leaders instead of a combination of talks and workshops led by people from Church of the Resurrection.  The church had less space to host Leadership Institute this year because of the renovation of one of the buildings.  I would have preferred more workshops during Leadership Institute, but I understand why this happened. 

My favorite Pre-Institute workshop was led by Jim and Jennifer Cowart, founding pastors of Harvest Church, a United Methodist church launched in 2001 near Macon, Georgia.  The church now has an average attendance of 2,000 each weekend.  One part of the workshop I enjoyed was a system of small groups called 3 G’s, grab, grow and gather.  They develop curriculum and then encourage small group leaders to “grab” it.    The small group leader then invites people in his or her neighborhood, work setting, and other networks to join a group.    

I could see Chain of Lakes doing this system during Lent.  Every year our congregation reads through a gospel—next Lent we will read through Mark.  I could see having congregation-wide small groups on Mark.  The groups would meet weekly for six weeks.  I could share six short talks on a different part of Mark and have it put on a DVD or a flash drive; I would add some discussion questions, share the materials and—we have something that a person could grab.  That person would gather their friends, co-workers and perhaps others from Chain of Lakes and have a small group.  If the small group corresponded with a sermon series that I’m sharing on Mark there would be even more incentive for people in the small group to come to worship. 

Adam Hamilton gave two talks and both of them excellent.  He started Leadership Institute by sharing how church architecture is important for Millenials.  She shared how some of the thinking of Church of the Resurrection in designing their new sanctuary.  He also used the metaphor of a restaurant as a way to think of worship.  She shared that ambience, service and the quality of the food make a great restaurant.  Church leaders could think about the quality of the atmosphere of the congregation, hospitality and the quality of worship service. 

Nancy Beach gave a compelling talk about what makes up a healthy church.  She shared that a healthy culture in a church is constructed by individuals.  She then shared and explained eight important parts of that culture.  They are joy, intensity, self-awareness, humility, trust, men & women working together, commitment to speak candidly, and love. 

The best part of time at Leadership Institute is talking to people who attended from Chain of Lakes.  We now have a common experience of learning together.  It’s not as hard to apply new ideas when I come back from this conference because the others who attended with me saw how these new ideas work.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Becoming an organized church--Yay, God!

This past Tuesday evening the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area met at the Presbyterian Church in Red Wing.  For perhaps the last time I set up a table at the entrance to the sanctuary and shared information about Chain of Lakes Church.

The mood of the Presbytery was celebrative.  The Presbytery elected Barbara Lutter as the new Stated Clerk, heard an outstanding presentation on stewardship by Adam Copeland, voted to ordain Hae Ryun Chang as a Teaching Elder.  The Presbytery thanked Bill Davnie for his service as a Stated Clerk and installed Jeff Japinga as the Executive Presbyter.

But the defining memory of the meeting for me will be the unanimous action by the Presbytery to receive Chain of Lakes as a Presbyterian congregation.  Our new church had met the requirements to become a church on Easter 2017.  The Steering Committee soon afterwards alerted Bill Davnie and the wheels were set in motion for this vote.

The vote was quick, almost perfunctory, and marked with celebration.  When I spoke to the motion I shared what a privilege it has been for me to work with the people of Chain of Lakes.  They have literally given their blood, sweat, and tears to establishing this faith community.  I also shared that I hope the Presbytery can review what happened with Chain of Lakes, learn from the successes and disappointments, and soon start more new churches.  At the end of my short talk I shared that becoming a church offers the opportunity of a new relationship between Chain of Lakes and the Presbytery.  Our soon-to-be organized church will soon start praying, thinking about, and working towards putting a building on the church property.  This next season of ministry offers the possibility of exciting collaboration.

At the Rotary meeting on Wednesday I was asked by a community member why this vote was important.  This person is not part of Chain of Lakes and had seen the posting of what happened on my Facebook page.  This is a good question.  Chain of Lakes probably won’t feel any different as an organized church than as a New Church Development. 

The vote is important because the people of Chain of Lakes and the Presbytery have accomplished an important goal.  Ever since Chain of Lakes was started as a New Church Development, we’ve wanted to become an organized church.   When seven families gathered in the Rice Lake Professional Building in February 2009, the group came to learn about how to become an organized church.  Now that goal is achieved.  Check that box off as an accomplishment. 

Being an organized church will give allow Chain of Lakes to operate more effectively—we can actually open up a bank account under our own name (wow!)—and will give our church legitimacy with the wider community.

During my devotional time on Wednesday morning I was thanking God for all the people who have helped make this happen.  And as I was praying I received a whisper from God that said, “you need to thank me.”  And my gosh is this true.  As a New Church Development, Chain of Lakes has faced some very tough and challenging situations.  Some of these situations presented problems that didn’t have easy answers.  Every time the people of Chain of Lakes have figured out how to respond successfully to these situations.  God led us through these moments—many times in ways that many of us didn’t realize.  God has always been working behind the scenes helping Chain of Lakes become an organized church.  Yay, God!


Starting this church has been an adventure of a lifetime.  I can’t wait to celebrate!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Joshua Tree at US Bank Stadium?

This past Friday night I surprised my wife, Amy, by taking her to hear U-2 perform at US Bank Stadium.  I had shared with her that I was going to take her on a secret adventure for her birthday, which was a day earlier.

I waited to purchase the tickets all week, but finally on Friday I pulled the trigger.  Buying tickets on-line felt like gambling.  I knew the prices were going down, but how long could I wait?  If I could have stomached waiting until Friday evening I could have saved another twenty percent.

The first time I listened to Joshua Tree was on a drive out west.  A confluence of events set me up to fall in love with the music.  Wide open spaces, spiritual messages that fit my views, and long guitar riffs by Beck—it felt like heaven.  Driving for days and listening to the music over and over and over cemented the lyrics in my mind.

The downloaded tickets said the concert started at 7:30, so like proper Minnesotans we were in our seats and ready to go.  But as inexperienced concert goers we didn’t realize we had a long wait to hear the main attraction.  Beck started out the concert.  I couldn’t understand a word the band shared.  I told Amy that I needed the lyrics to be projected.  When Beck finished we waited—and waited—and waited.  Poetry was flashed on the screen in back of the stage.  I liked reading the poems the first five times.  By the 20th I was mindlessly using my phone.

Finally Larry Mullen walked down the stage, then the Edge, and the Bono and Adam Clayton.  Soon we were all singing “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”  They played their first set of songs on a small stage without any video.  They didn’t need any extra help.  The songs and the music and the singing lifted me back to that drive out west.

When the video choreography started I was wowed.  Scenes of the desert and more wide open spaces.  It felt universal.

The sound was horrible for Beck; slightly better for U-2.  It would be hard for me to go back to US Bank Stadium for a concert.  I have walked through the doors of US Bank Stadium twice—once to watch the Vikings and once to watch the Blaine Bengals.  The stadium worked for me when I watched football.  I went to my seat and cheered.  As I've written before the stadium works differently than Target Field.  At US Bank Stadium the experience works best when I look at the huge windows and take in the sky.

But to spend hundreds of dollars to hear an iconic band and not enjoy a crystal clear sound?  No.  Why not Target Field or TCF Bank Stadium? 

Plenty of reviews have been written about the concert.  And they are worth reading.





For me the symbol of the night was the Joshua Tree.  The shape of the tree reminded the Mormons of when Joshua lifted up his hands in prayer.  Whatever our view of God, U-2 connects us to something deeper and far beyond ourselves.  And despite the cost and the venue having that moment with Amy was beautiful.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Being blessed by our friends at the Blaine Muslim Community Center


Last week I had the opportunity to go to the Blaine Muslim Community Center to share a statement of support from the Steering Committee of Chain of Lakes Church.

Let me back up.  In early August the Dar Al Farouq Center in Bloomington was bombed.  At about 5:00 in the morning someone threw an “improvised explosive device” into that place of worship.  The office of the Inman was damaged.  A witness said that the device was thrown from a pickup truck.

No matter how many times a place of worship is bombed, we are called to speak up and ultimately resist.  Every…single…time this happens in the Twin Cities we are called to resist and share that this action will never be acceptable.

The Blaine Muslim Community Center is located about a mile north from where Chain of Lakes Church worships.  Last spring at the lobby day for the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition I had the opportunity to sit around a table with many leaders from the Blaine Muslim Community Center to talk about important issues that the Minnesota Legislature was facing.  After that event the leaders of that community invited people from Chain of Lakes to an event where our friends were breaking the fast during Ramadan.

Shortly after the bombing of the Dar Al Farouq Center in Bloomington I wrote a statement of support for our friends at the Blaine Community Muslim Center.  The Steering Committee of Chain of Lakes edited the statement at our August meeting.  The Sunday after that meeting the Steering Committee stood behind me as I read the statement during worship at Chain of Lakes.

Last Thursday I dropped the statement off at the Blaine Muslim Community Center.  I got there about 8:00 and the parking lot was full.  I walked into the building and shared that I wanted to talk to share the statement with Waleed Shady, the Inman of the Community. 

When I arrived he was praying with others.  When he was done praying he greeted me warmly.  I shared with him the letter of support and other notes of support that people from Chain of Lakes had written on index cards.  He put them all on a bulletin board.  Then he invited me to dinner.

The community was breaking a fast that day.  Over two hundred people had gathered for dinner.  Food was strewn on a table that was must have been thirty feet long.  A man who was my guide told me about all of the different foods on the table.  He wanted to make sure I had the food I wanted.  He practically filled my plate with food.  When the two of us sat down to talk I asked my new friend if it was hard to fast.  He smiled and said he was used to it.  He lives in Blaine.  He has a daughter who is in 11th grade in Blaine High School.  He teaches in Minneapolis. 

He was willing to spend time with me—a white Christian instead of spending time with the people he knew.  He got out of his comfort zone.  Even though I walked into the Blaine Community Muslim Center with the intention of sharing a blessing, I was the one who walked out feeling blessed.  I was blessed because the leaders at the Blaine Muslim Community Center were willing to get out of their comfort zone and share hospitality with me.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Learning from the eclipse--our place in the universe

The above picture was taken by a friend of mine who lives in Salem, Oregon.  “The Great American Eclipse” started on the Oregon Coast and cut a southeasterly swath across the United States.  This was the first time since February 1979 that a full eclipse was seen from the contiguous United Stated, but then only five states in the Northwest experienced total darkness.  The moon hasn’t covered this much of the sun as seen in the United States since 1918.  My friend shared that it felt like a snow day in Salem.  Shops were closed, people didn’t go to work, and a lot of special activities took place.    

We weren’t so fortunate in Blaine, Minnesota.  We were told that we could enjoy 87 percent of eclipse.  At 12:30 Sally Narr and I decided to sit outside for our weekly meeting.  The sky was cloudy—no chance to see the moon go in front of the sun.  But it got darker—or did it?  I wasn't sure if this was my imagination.  Sally and I kept saying to each other—it’s getting darker, right?  Some part of us wanted it to get darker as if we were rooting for the eclipse to take place.  Most of the cars driving by our church had their lights on.  Was this intentional or did the something in the car car recognize that it was darker and automatically turn the lights on.  If I hadn’t known that an eclipse was happening I would have thought that the clouds were extra heavy for the day.

I ended up watching videos of people watching the eclipse.  I can still hear the “oohs" and "ahs" in people’s voices when the moon went over the sun.  Their voices expressed a childhood delight. 

We had people from our congregation who traveled to be in the zone of totality.  If I wasn’t working I might have too.  Even if eclipses happen frequently all around the world, I could imagine feeling that something happened when the sun was blocked by the moon. 

For one day I was reminded that we on the earth are not the center of the universe.  We are one small speck in a huge galaxy of time, matter, and space.  Given the our place in the universe, it makes any current troubles that I have quite small. 

The Psalmist had it right.  What are humans in the vast cosmic galaxy of space?  (Psalm 8)  We really are nothing.  Watching an event that we could predict but not control was a helpful reminder of our place in the universe.