Monday, July 16, 2018

Helping creation

Yesterday the people of Chain of Lakes Church enjoyed a wonderful service of worship on the church property. Once a month this summer the congregation I serve is leaving our current worship location on Davenport to worship at our future location—the church property.  The day was warm as we worshiped yesterday, but because of pop-up tents and plenty of water the large group who assembled was comfortable.

As part of a summer sermon series called “Need 2 Know” I preached about what is important to know about creation. The series is more than just sharing information with our head. I want to communicate what’s important to know with our heart and with our feet regarding creation.

As part of the series I encouraged people to spend at least 20 minutes in nature this week. Nature revives the heart like prayer does. One of my favorite places in the local area to be revived is the community gardens on the church property. I grew up in southwestern Minnesota and grew to enjoy the wide open spaces of the area. The north metro doesn’t have many wide open spaces. But when I stand at the community gardens my heart receives a taste of openness.

I shared in my sermon yesterday that today I would spend twenty minutes at the Community gardens on the Chain of Lakes church property. This morning I stood at the gardens for a while, and then I hiked the perimeter of the property. I enjoyed listening to the wind and the birds and seeing many beautiful wild flowers. I always enjoy taking pictures of the cross located on the southeast part of the property. The above pictures are of the cross on the property and the community gardens sponsored by Chain of Lakes. I shared more pictures on my Facebook page,

At the end of the sermon I talked about what each person can do with their feet to put a dent into global warming.

It’s hard for me to think about what I—one individual among the 7.4 billion who live on the earth—can do to prevent global warming.  Yes I can drive my car less, and set the temperature in my house higher in the summer and lower in the winter.  But this doesn’t seem tangible enough.

In my research for the sermon I came across a web site called It’s a non-profit created by a man named Matt Hill in Vermont. The organization is a public 501c3. The web site offers an easy way to reduce global warming. They promise that for every dollar given to the organization a tree will be planted. According to the web site every fully-developed tree absorbs 48 pounds of carbon from the atmosphere each year. Forty-six trees can absorb one ton of carbon. The average person contributes to the emission of 20 tons of carbon a year. Through a $46 contribution any person's carbon emission can be lessened by a ton.

I don’t know anything about besides what I read on their web site and their Facebook page. They seem legitimate to me. (I do plan on sharing with them via email how I talked about their organization in my sermon yesterday.) I made a contribution this morning that will plant forty trees. I’m trusting that when those trees are developed I will have helped reduce 1920 pounds of carbon emissions a year.  This is one step. I know that I’ve taken a small step with my feet. I’m trusting that that it’s a helpful step.

Monday, July 9, 2018

The unchurching of America

Yesterday, Jean Hopensperger wrote an article in the Star Trbune about the decline of churches called, “As Churches Close, a Way of Life Fades.” (  Underneath the main headline was a smaller note that this is the first in an occasional series.
The article was popular.  It was the most-read article on the Star Tribune’s web site and generated over 700 comments with many more comments being added.
In the article Hopensperger shared the story of La Salle Lutheran Church who will be closing in August.  She also shared statistics about the decline of Mainline Protestant churches. The Evangelical Lutheran in America has lost almost 200,000 members since 2000 and about 150 churches have closed.  The United Methodist Church has closed 65 churches in Minnesota in the same time period.  As a PC(USA) pastor I remember when 28,000 people were part of the Twin Cities Area Presbytery. Today the Presbytery has approximately 16,000 members.

It is a tough time for the mainline church.

The religious landscape in the United States is changing.  According to the Pew Research Center 27 percent of Americans saw themselves as spiritual and not religious in 2017 compared to nineteen percent in 2012. (

As someone who helped redevelop a Presbyterian church and who started a new Presbyterian church virtually from scratch, I live and breathe the question(s) of how to build a church ministry from a mainline perspective that is appealing to the wider community.

Do I think it is possible to build a growing, vibrant, mainline congregation in 2018?  Of course I do!   I’ve seen it happen in the two contexts I’ve served.  And more importantly God hasn’t changed in the last 18 years; the stories of Jesus haven’t changed in the last 18 years; the possibility of individuals and the wider community having their lives transformed in the last 18 years haven’t changed either.  

I don’t think that the path to building a growing, vibrant, mainline congregation is easy. And the ways to do this are many. 

I do believe that one essential way to growth is to adapt continuously.

What is ironic to me about the article in yesterday’s paper is it was placed directly above an article entitled, “Theaters find more ways to keep you glued to your seat?” ( The article went on to say that movie theaters and Hollywood studios are having a near-record year. One sentence from this article has stuck with me. “From the seats to the food and drinks, theater owners are splurging to add the amenities to remain appealing to people who can now see movies virtually anywhere, even on their phones.”

Movie theater owners are adapting. From reclining seats to new food & drink options to subscription pricing to new projection systems. Theater owners are making changes.

Mainline churches have to adapt too.   

Is adaptation easy? Of course not. It leads church leaders to ask hard questions about making changes, about what is important to the culture and what traditions (if any) are important to keep.

But to ask a new person to walk into a church community and encounter something that hasn’t changed in 18 years won’t work (for the most part) in bringing that person back. I do believe that churches who continually ask themselves the questions, “what’s working, what’s not working, and how can we adapt” will have the possibility of experiencing success.

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Monday, June 25, 2018


I’ve decided to start blogging again. I'm surprised. Let me tell you how this happened.

Last week I attended an excellent preaching conference at St Andrew Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie. Some Lutherans are moving towards doing sermon series and away from relying on the lectionary in their preaching. They organized a short two-day preaching conference on doing series. I’ve been doing sermon series for at least ten years, so I appreciated feeling some solidarity in constructing sermon series from my main-line friends. 

One of the benefits of this conference was listening to Lillian Daniel speak. She is the pastor of First Congregational Church in Dubuque, Iowa. I’m usually good at controlling my compulsions, but I’m especially weak when it comes to purchasing books while I’m at a conference.  Pastors know what I mean. We attend a conference AND get inspired by the speakers AND we are attracted to the books that are being sold AND we have a credit card AND we find ourselves walking away from the book table looking like we've had too much to drink. (We aren't walking in a straight line as we're juggling armloads of books that are about to fall from our arms.) We get back to our office AND put these compulsive purchases on our book shelves. Years later we look at the book AND wonder what led us to purchase them. Can I get an Amen?

As I approached the book table at the conference the logic in my brain was flashing, “danger, danger, danger” But my compulsions won. I bought three of Daniel’s books. To prove a point I am almost embarrassed to make, I then went on-line and purchased one of her books that was sold out.  AND to illustrate that I’m not that far away from sitting on a metal chair in a church basement telling others in the circle, “my name is Paul Moore and I’m addicted to buying books,” late last week I opened the mail box and saw I had received a package from Amazon. “Did I purchase a book,” I wondered. I opened the package. “Doink.” It was the book—the one I had to have 48 hours earlier and had forgotten 48 hours later that I had purchased.    

I am happy to reveal that I’ve read half of Daniel’s book entitled, “Tired of Apologizing For a Church I Don’t Belong To.” I can’t guarantee that I’ll read all of her books, but I know they will make it onto my book shelves. My hope right now is I won't pull them out in five years and wonder why I purchased them.

As I listened to Daniel speak at the conference the idea came to me that I would like to do more writing. A book(s)—perhaps. When I started as the Organizing Pastor of Chain of Lakes I felt a strong urging to write about the journey of starting a church. And though I was encouraged by some friends at the time, that project got lost in the weight of work.

 Now that Chain of Lakes is chartered as a church, the pressures are different.  The weight still feels extraordinary, but it’s different.  So maybe (maybe?) I can pull out that project again.

It’s not that I stopped writing. Currently I write sermons and devotions and scripts for videos. I even did a video series from scratch on the gospel of Mark last Lent.  I wrote 500 blogs until I stopped when I felt my voice had become too narrow.

Writing a book seems too much, but … As I was listening to Lillian Daniel and thinking about writing about the journey of starting a new church, the next step that seemed doable was re-starting my blog. So here I go.

I don’t know how long or where this blog-writing go. This morning I read a beautiful Facebook post by Anne Lamott. She paraphrased an idea from EL Doctorow about writing.  She wrote that “writing is like driving at night with the headlights on—we can only see a little ways in front of you, but you can make the whole journey that way.”

With humility I want to share my voice and ideas with the wider world. I know I have ideas—sometimes I wish my brain would just stop. I don’t know if these ideas can be helpful; the only way to find out is by sharing them. So here I go again on the journey of blogging. I don’t know where this journey of blogging will lead me, but I’m ready to take another drive. 

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:

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

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!