Saturday, December 1, 2007

Pastor Erik--December 2007

Transformation is among us!

Its been nearly a year since we began this process called “Transformation.” Now, you may be wondering when transformation is going to “happen” so we can get on with church life as usual. How are we going to know when we've arrived? When will we be transformed? Or you may even be asking: When can we quit talking about all of this?

In the gospel of Luke similar questions are being asked of Jesus about the kingdom of God: “Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!” For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.’”(Luke 17:20-21) Like the kingdom of God, Transformation is not a destination exactly, not something that comes so you can say “Ok, we've done it” and just hang out. But, also like God's kingdom, you can see hints of Transformation—signs that God is up to something—the Transformation of Bethlehem is among us!

Here are some of the best signs that God is making Transformation happen among us:

Stuart Shawen

Tim Campbell

Ruth McKee

Sandy Rogers

John Slete

Mel Hayes

Linda Hayes

Nathan Clemens

Rebecca Clemens

Elliot Clemens

Ken Baungards

Vicki Baungards

David Holthaus

Erin Holthaus

Jacob Holthaus

Hannah Holthaus

Sienna Holthaus

These are the people who, in the past year, have felt called to participate in the mission of God through Bethlehem Lutheran Church by becoming members. There are 17 people on this list. For a congregation that regularly has 40-50 people in worship on any given Sunday, this is nothing short of a miracle! And two times this fall we have had 80 people in worship—more than we had this past Easter. And there's no reason to think that this won't continue. I don't think that growth for growth's sake is really what being the people of God is all about, but I also know that people don't join dying congregations. People feel called to participate in a congregation that is on its way somewhere, a community that's tuned in to what God is up to in the world and is seeking to be a part of it. We don't transform simply by adding people, but as we are transforming, people will naturally want to join with us in God's work. And through our Transformation, they have. This is cause for us to celebrate.

But in our celebration, we need to be careful not to think that “we've arrived,” that our Transformation is complete and we can just “be the church” now that we've been saved from the brink of disaster. Like the kingdom of God, Transformation is continuous, an ongoing emerging reality that we now live in. It's not about having enough people to pay the bills and being able to afford a pastor. Its not about having a full sanctuary, or lots of programs and activities, or being known as a vibrant congregation. All of these things are simply means to an end: getting us ready to engage in the purpose that God has for us in God's mission in and to the world. And for us, that's the next step. In the coming months we will be working hard on Guiding Principles—those statements that will lead us to that next stage of mission and participation of what God is up to in the world. We'll be developing a purpose statement, and seeking to find some clarity as to what it is we are to do next. God is calling us to do more that just simply “be”—we are called to transform and to keep transforming so that we will be ready to be part of God's mission and purpose for us. Its an exciting time to be a part of Bethlehem Lutheran Church to see where God is leading us next. Transformation is among us!

Pastor Erik