Category Archives: Uncategorized

When you just couldn’t make it happen

I got an email from a friend who told me about a project that she had been working on. She was a little disappointed. She and others had high hopes, but it wasn’t panning out so great. To quote her,

“I’m doing my best, but it’s a big job … and I wasn’t as successful as I had hoped. Not for lack of trying … or dedication. It’s just a lot.”

I know her. She’s great, talented, hardworking. I believe her. I don’t think she should be so disappointed, though. We tend to think about the things we do as isolated successes or failures while most of the time they are neither. They are parts of a journey of which we know neither the true beginning nor ending. We see a little way ahead and behind us and understand our world and lives from it. God looks and works a long, long, long way further before, beyond and within what we experience.

I suppose it is impossible for us to turn off our instinct to size up and evaluate, but in truth we ought to restrain ourselves so we can be open to the journey too vast and cosmic for us to measure. We need to trust that what we do, fail to do, mess up, excel at – all of it – is something God can and will use. This is where confidence comes from: not from our ability to ‘get it done,’ but from God’s determination to make the really important stuff happen anyway.

Most of us aren’t here yet!

We believe this with all our hearts. It’s got two sides to it.

One – “Jacob’s Well is mostly made up of people who aren’t here…” Jacob’s Well isn’t for or about ‘us.’ It is about and for the people God has called, the people God has in mind when God said, “Let there be Jacob’s Well.”

Two – “Yet!” We expect them to come, or better yet, we expect to go to them. It is one thing for us to know we are incomplete, it is another to believe that God is at work to fulfill us and for us to live and act in that expectation.

What is so amazing about this is how this is coming to life within the community as we prepare to launch our second site. The night before the first preview service the Board and spouses met for a social dinner together (it is a whole other story about how we could possibly afford to do that the night before our first preview!) and while we were talking about the journey that has been Jacob’s Well our chair noted how close we had all become and how much we had done together that we loved and were proud of. And (this is the clincher) that if it were not for Jacob’s Well no one in that room would have known anyone else (spouses excepted…)

The next morning, about 45 minutes before the first service was to begin at Longfellow, we gathered for last minute details and prayer. Our Site Leader who has only been around for about six months made a similar comment. He noted that most of us haven’t known each other very long but we were all here because of God’s work in Jacob’s Well. He asked us to think forward six months when this circle would be vastly expanded with people we by then knew, loved and had shared significant experiences with, but right now we don’t even know exist. And just imagine what we will accomplish, be and reach with them as the next layer of who we are.

God’s vision for Jacob’s Well may have started in my mind and heart, but it is contagious and owned by so many other people now. That giving away and ownership by others is the fulfillment of a vision. That is why I get up each morning to help Jacob’s Well remain faithful to it. And it tells me to start listening for the next stage of that vision.

Launching a ‘not very good church’ on purpose

Cover of mailer for Jacob's Well Longfellow preview

Is this anyway to attract people to our church? We think so. Obviously not if you were trying to get people who already think church is just fine. But why would we do that? They are probably going to church already. What about all those people (a majority today?) who think there is something basically wrong with ‘church’?

From the very beginning Jacob’s Well was designed to speak to people who have given up or are ready to give up on church, God and faith. It seems ridiculous to try to interest them by claiming what a good example of church we are. The copy on the back of our mailer says, “If your image of church is like most people’s, we’re glad not to be a very good example of it. So instead of being another church, we’ve tried to be a “what if” church. One known for being honest, thinking, relevant and casual so people can be themselves – you know, their real selves.”

We believe that life needs God at its center and Jesus in its heart, but we also believe that for that to happen people need churches that are authentic to who they are. People want their church to be in their own  neighborhood so it resonates with, pulls together and speaks to people with whom they already share community.  That’s why we’re in the process of starting Jacob’s Well Longfellow just 4 miles from Jacob’s Well Field in this densely populated urban neighborhood of south Minneapolis.

We had our first monthly  “preview” service on Sunday at Anne Sullivan School on Sunday (Jan. 24, 2010) and had a great time. The school and district have been great partners and the building is wonderful. Most of all, the team of people, many brand new to the Jacob’s Well community, have been incredible. A little over 100 people attended, nearly half of them new to Jacob’s Well. A great start. But it is just a start. We want to add value to the Longfellow neighborhood and be part of the struggles and joys of the community and individuals. We don’t just want to expand, we want to fulfill what God has in mind for us. And we need to let them know we are here. As I’ve said a thousand times, “It doesn’t do any good to start a church if no one knows about it.”

Starting another church is a lot of work. Being an authentic presence is a much bigger task, but that is what it is all about.

[Want to know more about why we would do this? Read “Most of us aren’t here yet.”]

Prayers appreciated (sympathy is ok too)

Ankle MRI

Okay, I’m old.  I tore my Achilles tendon playing basketball yesterday.  Not total detachment, but worth an MRI for further investigation.  Keep me in your prayers, not to mention my family and the rest of the Jacob’s Well staff who are inevitably inconvenienced by my lack of mobility.

Hopefully I’ll be back running and out on the court in a couple months.

Merry Christmas!

christmasbackdrop.jpg

Merry Christmas everyone!

364 days of the year seem to be pretty hectic.  But today I’ll be sitting around with my family doing whatever seems to come next.  That is perhaps the best gift I get, although I don’t know for sure because we haven’t opened presents yet…

Thank you to all who have been part of the sweat, dreaming, planning, encouraging, supporting of Jacob’s Well.  It is a great sign that Christ is born that Jacob’s Well even is.

May Christ be born in you today, and every day.

Show & Tell

Brown Paper

It is great to be able to experiment as a church in ways that might actually make a difference to people. We like to not just talk about things, but to take at least first steps towards doing them. (That’s our PAW concept, I said I’d blog about that a couple of months ago, I’ll get to it…)

A couple Sundays ago people all signed this giant brown paper banner that said, “We are Jacob’s Well” on it, claiming that the ministry belongs to us, and that without each and everyone of us, Jacob’s Well wouldn’t exist. The next Sunday the banner was there, but we were talking about the next step, sharing our faith beyond our community. Being in mission, taking God’s love to the streets. So during the whole service a group of people took down the sign, cut it up into little pieces, folded them and put them into the well. (The well’s water this week, the life-giving stuff from God, isn’t liquid H2O but these pieces of paper… us… the gifted people God calls into the world to bring life!)

During the closing song people came up and took a piece of that paper from the well. I asked them to take it for two reasons: 1. a reminder – be God’s love in the world. I challenged each person to do some act of kindness for someone else, and to do it to the glory of God, because it is the right thing to do, what we are created for, not just to be nice or to get credit. Then 2. pass on the paper – this was the hard part for people. To not only do the act, but to tell them why they did it. It makes for an interesting conversation…

“Here, let me help you.”

“Thank you.”

“Would you take this piece of paper?” Handing them a folded piece of brown paper.

“Um, what’s that about?”

“Well, you see I go to this church where we don’t think you can just believe things, but we actually ought to do them. And this paper came from my church.  It’s a long story, but it’s sort of a way of passing on who we are and who God made us.”

“Oh, I see.” [lying] “And what am I supposed to do with it?”

“Um, I don’t know… It’s up to you. I guess you can do whatever you want, but maybe you could do the same thing… I mean give it to someone else.”

May the story go on and on. May we all share God’s love with all our heart, soul, strength and mind.

Friday morning sabbath

Fridays are the closest thing I have to a Saturday. Being a pastor means that weekends are work time. But when things are relatively caught up (and ‘relatively’ is the operative term because there is always more that ‘could be done,’ if not ‘should be done’) Fridays can be a little slower. I spent the morning out on the back porch, enjoying the birds, the air and a couple of homemade Americanos with my wife, Kris, talking about impending school stuff,  reading the paper, and pulling together loose ends of our service on Sunday at Jacob’s Well. Basically, mulling over and making sense of the different parts of my world, and doing it at the speed of life.

I’ve been getting a lot of input recently from many and various sources to make sure I have a sabbath (day of rest) each week. My question is “Why not two? Isn’t that what a weekend is?” But for now, one will have to do; I’m not very good at even taking that. A weekly sabbath isn’t just a nice idea, it’s essential. One of the deadliest enemies of a pastor is pumping out of the well when you aren’t putting anything in.  I can’t imagine it is different for anyone.

So today there are a few tasks to take care of, but I spent the morning watching the dew shine on the grass, watching chickadees, cardinals, goldfinch and grosbeaks working over our feeders, sparrows washing in the bath, squirrels making the leap from the birch to the silver maple. I’ve still got the State Fair to go to this evening, a run around Lake Nokomis and some time with my family ahead. I think I’ll be ready for what’s next.

The point isn’t what I do on my sabbath, or even how long it is exactly, but what I don’t do and how open what I’m not doing allows me to become.  To stop, or even pause, is a first step to unlearning.  It permits different questions, priorities, perspectives to arise.  It walks around the inside of the box I live in most of my week and kicks at the walls, almost always opening windows in some of them.  I suppose it is pretty hard to not live in a box of some sort as long as there are windows to see out of.

Puts a whole new spin on “Honor the Sabbath, and keep it holy.”     Exodus 20.8