Sunday, March 30, 2008

15 Lessons in 15 years

I want to finish this Spring Break Special by sharing some lessons I've learned over the past 15 years. They vary in significance and complexity. Some I learned the hard way. Some caught me off guard. Some I notice by paying only mild attention. Some may help you. Some helped me. Some won't help anyone. As penance for being late with this post I'll throw in a couple extra:

  1. The myth of the hero leader is just that -- a myth.
  2. Curriculum is generally dumbed-down to the lowest common denominator. Publishing houses are under such pressure to sell copies that curriculum has to be devoid of controversial (read "doctrinal") content.
  3. People generally make up their minds before they consult their pastor. Then they hope he will tell them what they want to hear.
  4. Conflict presents great opportunity for spiritual progress. . . and for disaster, I suppose. Conflict and progress are directly proportional.
  5. What a person believes about God makes more difference than anything else.
  6. God's people are unbelievably generous.
  7. It takes years to develop spiritual strength and we all want it now. Suffering is the only shortcut. Discipline over time is the only other way.
  8. Fatigue doesn't just make cowards of us all, it makes us all depressed!
  9. People leave the church for a variety of reasons. It is not always the pastor.
  10. If someone comes to the church because they had a problem with their previous pastor, it is only a matter of time 'til they have problems with me.
  11. Spiritual leadership at home is hard. Husbands abdicate it to their wives. Parents delegate it to the children, letting them pick a church or decide whether or not to have family devotions. Spiritual leadership is delegated downward.
  12. The pastoral task is to stand up and remind people of the greatness of God and the certainty of his promises. This is true whether you are at the bedside of someone who is dying, counseling, or behind a pulpit. It is a simple job really.
  13. God is sovereign over the deployment of his servants. If someone will be of more use to him in another church or in another country He will see that they get there.
  14. There is no substitute for preparation. The best meetings are those that have been thoroughly rehearsed before anyone even shows up.
  15. Pastors don't really hang out together. Maybe they aren't very interesting. . . at least to themselves.
  16. Pastoral ministry is impossible without supernatural power. I cannot take away someone's pain. I can provide wise enough counsel. I can't make someone hopeful. All I can do is pretend unless God shows up.
  17. It is impossible to make too much of Jesus.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

15 Innovations in 15 years

One of my favorite things has been to think up new ways to solve problems or to reach out. As I look back we've done some innovative things to further the ministry. Some of them originated here, others we borrowed from other people. Some of them worked well, some fizzled. Some we're still doing, some only lasted a week or two. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Coffee Cart: The kids who prompted us to start Coffee Cart by smoking behind the church and defacing our bus are now in their mid-30's. We still want young people to know the church is FOR them and wants them around.
  2. Music Camp: This was a great mix of our personnel and opportunity for ministry.
  3. New U: Who can forget Bud the Butterfly? Of all the things we tried that didn't really take-off, this may have been the best.
  4. Elders: This is certainly not new to us, but the transition to elder leadership was very, very smooth. The church voted unanimously to change. Over the past several years we have been well led by this group of men.
  5. Middle School Auction for Dalit Children: It is great enough our middle schoolers support India's unwanted children. But it's even better that the Middle School leadership found a way to continue the support even after our Middle Schoolers graduate.
  6. The Stewardship Project -- $50 Challenge: The church gave several people $50 to see what damage they could do for God's kingdom with one Grant. You will be amazed as you read about their creativity here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
  7. Multi-site Church: We weren't the first, but we found a model that allowed us to plant churches and remain one church, to maximize the advantages of size and smallness.
  8. Shuttle to Parking: This is another solution that should have worked better than it did. We have all kinds of parking near the church and a shuttle should have helped us park there without taxing our 23 existing spots.
  9. Preaching without a pulpit: This grew out of a couple Easter messages where I was so over-prepared I preached for over 45 minutes. So, I decided to be myself more when I preach and script less. I, for one, have enjoyed the freedom.
  10. All-Church Retreats: Some of my best memories with the church were at our Memorial Day Retreats. We were priced out of even the least-expensive camps. Nothing warmed our church up like this extended time together.
  11. 65th Anniversary Celebration: We are the only church I know of to ever celebrate a 65th Anniversary! Part of our reason was a desire to digitize the church archives. Ken & Joanne Weiss made a fabulous video for us that is still available in the resource room.
  12. Blog: We've had almost 50,000 visitors (remind me to have a contest about this) and almost 1,000 posts to our blog.
  13. Kid's Klub: We did this two different summers. We have made-for-YouTube videos before there was YouTube of Brian and Judy singing "Money" or Gilligan being danced around by natives. Too bad.
  14. H2O: H2O remains one of the most creative solutions to one of our society's most perplexing problems. This ministry has been featured in the Oregonian and in a new book for teens called Do Hard Things.
  15. Christmas Dessert Theater: Thousands of people found this to be a fun, meaningful, and even worshipful start to the Christmas season.
Thanks to everyone who made such fun, thoughtful and innovative ministry possible.

High School Parent Newsletter - March edition

Ignite NewsletterIf your a parent of a high school student at New Life Church, or are a parent interested in the high school ministry of New Life Church, or are simply interested in the high school ministry of New Life Church, please check out the March edition of the Ignite newsletter by clicking here. In it you will find an article about the upcoming Utah Mission '08, meeting times, other upcoming events, birthday announcements and prayer requests.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

15 Sermons in 15 years

In the past 15 years, I have preached approximately 700 sermons. Most have been eminently forgettable. I thought about that and wondered if I could remember even 15 sermons out of 700. To my surprise, I could.

I thought it might of some interest to share what have been some of my favorite messages. These are not necessarily the best or the most fun to deliver or the ones that God used the most. Some of them fit those categories. Sometimes the message was memorable because the preparation that was particularly meaningful to me. Here goes:

  1. Treasuring God in Life and Death (January 13, 2008, 2 Cor 4). This message a couple months ago represented the first time I changed my preaching plan because of things that were happening in the church. . . and I'm glad I did.
  2. A Treasure for the Nations (January 6, 2008). This message surveyed the entire Bible -- twice. I didn't know you could do that. It was a synthesis that encourages me to follow God's example. And it was fun to see if I could do it.
  3. The Gospel According to Ruth (November 25 - December 16, 2007). I was impressed again at God's ability and inclination to redeem bad events and undeserving people.
  4. The Resurrection (November 11, 2007, Mark 16:1-8). I almost said the entire gospel of Mark was my favorite to preach. Usually a pastor preaches this message on Easter. It was fun to do it in November.
  5. Peter's Denial (October 28, 2007, Mark 14:66-72). I have benefited greatly from other people's mistakes. This is my attempt to prevent similar denials in my own life and in New Life Church.
  6. The Book of Job (January 21 - February 25, 2001). God used these six messages to strengthen my faith in God's smiling face behind a frowning providence. I did not anticipate that I would feel like Job again later that year when we lost another child.
  7. Stewardship Series (January 1 - February 5, 1995). Our church had experienced chronic financial scarcity for years. For some reason, God used this particular series to change people's attitudes about giving and stewardship. It set us on solid financial ground. I've tried to repeat that same series a couple of times, but never enjoyed the same dramatic effect.
  8. Barabbas (April 9, 2000). I think this was my first attempt at preaching in the first person. I had forgotten that I preached this on my birthday. I remember my excitement trying to figure out what it felt like to see Jesus (literally!) as your substitute.
  9. Zechariah (December 12, 2005). Zechariah's name means God remembers.
  10. Things That Matter Most (1998). This series eventually led to a CD of original music (that you can still purchase from the church office, BTW). The music is more memorable than the messages.
  11. The Limits of the Atonement (July 17, 1998). This is the only time I did not know what I was going to say at 11:30 on Saturday night. I had prepared two different messages, one for each of two different views. I chose to say God definitely saves those whom He elects. It had to be a dreadfully delivered message (I didn't get much sleep). But, someone brought a friend with them that Sunday, and the friend thought it was fascinating. He was saved shortly thereafter and baptized that next winter.
  12. The Great (10) Commandments (September 26 - December 5, 1999). This series is memorable for me because it was during these messages that I discovered Thomas Watson. He has become one of my favorites because of his practical approach to Christian doctrine.
  13. The Excellency of Christ (November 2 - December 21, 2003). This Christmas series was inspired by a sermon by Jonathan Edwards with the same title.
  14. How to Raise Great Children: The life of John G. Paton (June 15, 2003). This Father's Day message was inspired by my reading of the biography of John G. Paton. He attributes his passion for God to his father. I couldn't help but wonder how you pass on that kind of vision for God.
  15. God is for us! (Easter, March 23, 2008). It's not that I couldn't really remember 15 so I had to go to last weeks. The criteria is that it was memorable to me and I can remember what I preached on last Sunday! Seriously, it is such great news that I can't help but put it on this list.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

15 Reasons I've Stayed 15 Years

As part of my reflection on 15 years I have thought about the things that have anchored me here. In the beginning we thought we'd return to Montana and much to our initial surprise we are still here. Why have I stayed at New Life Church for a decade and a half? Here are 15 reasons:

  1. I still feel called by God to be here.
  2. The church has given me no reason to go.
  3. It is a pleasure to work with elders who are men of integrity and vision.
  4. It is a delight to work with such a fine staff.
  5. God is still answering prayers and sending workers into the harvest.
  6. I am privileged to serve the greater Body of Christ. I was a GHC trainer for several years for Sonlife ministries and now am a trustee for Western Seminary and CB Northwest.
  7. I am still learning a lot.
  8. No one else wants me!
  9. Most people who wish I would leave have given up and left the church.
  10. I have freedom to care for my family and coach my kids sports.
  11. I have a new office!
  12. My family loves the church. If I was fired, they'd still want to come and serve!
  13. There are several young men at New Life Church who will become better pastors than I am and God has given me opportunity to be part of their lives.
  14. The church has loved my family. God has kept his word about returning a hundred-fold in this life. . . (Mk. 10:29-30).
  15. There is work still to do!

Monday, March 24, 2008

15 Changes 15 Years

I recently completed 15 years as the Sr. Pastor of New Life Church. I took a few moments to reflect on what I have learned from the experience. While it is not much of an exciting career path, it is a privilege to be sure, to be allowed by God and patient people to continue serving for such a long time. The 15 years have included births and deaths, exorcism, baptisms, court appearances, letters of recommendation, meetings, conferences, progress and losses, complaints, compliments, and more.

For Spring Break I want to share some of my reflections on the 15 years. Here are a few of the changes that have taken place in the past 15 years:

  1. The world was shocked that the World Trade Center had just been attacked. . . the first time!
  2. People were outraged that gas was over a dollar ($1.06) and a first-class stamp was $.29.
  3. The earth is home to a billion more people than it was in 1993.
  4. The internet is now useful.
  5. Dial-up isn't!
  6. West Linn High School was being remodeled. . . the first time!
  7. New Life Church was called West Linn Baptist Church.
  8. The church had only recently paid off the mortgage on their 1960's addition to building and had never purchased any other property.
  9. The church had been without a pastor for one week! The longest pastoral tenure had been seven and a half years.
  10. We had two services, one traditional and one contemporary.
  11. Freda Fox was still fourteen years from retirement and was the only church secretary to ever use a computer.
  12. The inside of the church was brown paneling.
  13. An elder was an old person who needed help across the street, not a church leader.
  14. The church had only one location.
  15. Our worship leaders at the Riverfalls campus were three and five years old.

Tim Keller @ UC Berkeley - Belief in an Age of Skepticism?

For those of you unacquainted with Tim Keller (planter and pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian, PCA, in Manhattan), this is a phenomenal introduction.

If you'd like to learn more you can check out his new book, Reason for God, or take a look at all the the free Keller resources at

Friday, March 21, 2008

Utah Mission '08 for High School Students

High school students from New Life Church have an exciting opportunity this summer. It is called the Utah Mission '08 and it is scheduled for July 6-15, 2008.

Two friends of New Life Church (Scott Creps and Steve Bennetsen) are a part of a church in Ogden, Utah called Alpine Church. Like New Life Church, they have a vision to plant churches in an area of the country that is largely unreached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we will be supporting them as reach out to their community.

Why should you consider being a part of this trip? Well...
-It will be an unforgettable experience
-It will change your life
-You will build lasting relationships
-You will bless the ministry of Alpine Church
-You will be equipped to serve others and share Christ with them
Interested? For more information, please click here to download the packet containing more information and an application due March 30th.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

What can a class of middle school students do to impact the world for Christ?

This was the question our NLC students asked themselves 3 years ago and it did not take long to find a way right here in our own church body. The Buhlers minister to children the same age as those in our class and it really struck a cord. The Dalit children in India belong to a caste of society that are below the bottom rung of the ladder. They are called "the untouchables" because any person of standing would not even go near them...

Our students have adopted and supported two Dalit students with monthly contributions that provide for their Christian schooling, clothing and food. Every week students empty their pockets of change and the occasional dollar bill to sacrificially meet the needs of these students their own age on the other side of the world.

In an effort to do more to help the Buhlers and the students with one-time expenses and other needs we came up with the idea of a charity auction.

Each of the students contribute from their own property items that they know will appeal to other students. They also help their parents and other friends understand the need and donate items to sell.

Then on a special night once each year we have a pizza party and auction.

The 3rd Annual Middle School Auction to support the Dalit children was held on 3/12 and we were humbled by the generosity of the contributors of items, bidders and other benefactors.

We broke our previous record by raising over $1100 for this important work!

The Lord has also used this to teach our students other lessons like:

- how to give selflessly from the abundance that God has given you
- how to release something you cherish into the Lord's hands and watch him do amazing things that you did not expect
- how to share your burden with others in such a way that they come on board and help out
- how to show gratitude to others when they sacrificially give to make your vision become a reality

Some amazing testimonies of God's provision and His people's selfless obedience were shared and are happening every day in the lives of our students.

Please celebrate with us and be in prayer for our students that they might develop a burden for souls that would cause them to give their lives away in service to Christ.

Special thanks to all those adults who have helped, encouraged, contributed and sacrificially given to this event to help us teach these lessons and provide for the needs of the Dalit Children and the Buhler's ministry!!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Benefit Concert for the Curtemans

I hope you are keeping up with Nick and Meredith on their blog. She has received some good news recently. They also have a friend who is putting on a benefit concert and silent auction for them. You may want to read about it here. Please continue to keep them in your prayers.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A One-Day Conference for Parents and Teens

Attention New Life Church parents and teens. There is a conference coming to Portland, May 3, 2008 from 9am-5pm at Rolling Hills Community Church entitled "Do Hard Things." It is a call to adolescent youth to rebel against the low expectations of our society. In fact, the creators of the conference have coined a phrase that encapsulates this idea--rebelution.

The creators and presenters are 19-year-old twin brothers Alex and Brett Harris, the younger brothers of Joshua Harris, who has written several popular books like I Kissed Dating Good-Bye. Don't miss this opportunity that may change yours or your teens life. If you are interested in carpooling, talk to Matt Vorhees, and if you would like more information, click here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Chairs For Free

We have about 80 folding chairs to give away for free. You may come to the church during business hours or church on Sunday and take as many folding chairs as you would like for free.

We only ask a couple things of you:

  • Promise to create at least one ministry event to use the chairs. That could be:
    • A life-group party.
    • A neighborhood get-together.
    • A fellowship dinner.
    • A prayer meeting.
    • Anything else that connects God and people.
  • Please check with Julia or Pastor Scott about which pile of chairs to pick from.
  • Please get them by St. Patricks day! The Leprechauns will take all of them that are still around on the 18th.
Did I mention the chairs are free?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Season of Prayer Week 5

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. Acts 13:2-3

In our 5th week of our 6 weeks of prayer and fasting, we are focusing on praying for our church's effort to plant new churches. The Lord has given us a vision to double the number of evangelical churches in West Linn and beyond that to touch our region with the gospel through church planting. Would you pray today that:

  • God would prepare our church for the next church plant.
  • God would empower us to reach out to our community in new and exciting ways.
  • God would soften hearts and draw unbelievers to Himself.
  • God would provide a church planting pastor to the lead the next church plant.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fitting in at Church

Maybe you're considering coming to New Life Church for Easter. This training video can give you some helpful tips on fitting in when you come and hopefully save you some embarrassment. Enjoy!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Middle School Auction This Wednesday!

Please come and support this event to raise money for our Dalit Mission project. The auction will be held this Wednesday evening (the 12th), 7:00-8:30 PM in the middle school room.

Also, if you have a donation please call Gay Haugen: 503-742-0858.

Here is a listing of items available so far:

· One German Chocolate Cake (baked by our own Jeannette Kramer)
· Air Hockey Table
· Over 20 DVDs!!
· Game Cube and Games
· Coffee Maker with gourmet coffee basket
· Gorgeous Necklace and earring set made from vintage Czech glass beads by Alma Coston
· Lava Lamp
· 1 Hour Harp Lesson given by Andie Haugen
· Mighty Beanz (!!)
· Brand New BMX bike
· Batch of Warm Scones of your choice baked and delivered when requested by Kristy Madsen
· 2 Brighton Bracelets
· And so much more!!!!!!!!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Spring Ahead!

Tonight, turn your clocks ahead. Daylight Savings time officially begins at 2:00 am. on Sunday morning. This is on the church blog because someone always forgets and walks in an hour late to church. (Boy, is that ever embarrassing). Or, worse yet, someone forgets about daylight saving time and skips church altogether! So hopefully, this will prevent either of those problems.

And, don't forget to check the batteries in your smoke detector! That might prevent an even bigger problem.

So, see you tomorrow. Normal time. . . it'll just feel earlier.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

An Unusual Reason to Bring Someone to Easter With You

Do you realize how early Easter is this year? As you may know, Easter is always the 1st Sunday after the 1st full moon after the Spring Equinox (which is March 20). This dating of Easter is based on the lunar calendar that Hebrew people used to identify Passover, which is why it moves around on our Roman calendar.

This year is the earliest Easter any of us will ever see the rest of our lives! And only the most elderly (95 years old or above) of our population have ever seen it this early.

Here are a couple facts:

  1. The next time Easter will be this early (March 23) will be the year 2228 (220 years from now). The last time it was this early was 1913.
  2. The next time it will be a day earlier, March 22, will be in the year 2285 (277 years from now). The last time it was on March 22 was 1818.
So, no one alive today has or will ever see it any earlier than this year!

Update: Operation Christmas Child

Did you put the smile on this child's face? If you provided one of the 83 shoe boxes that New Life Church collected in November for Operation Christmas Child, then you brought joy and hope to one of the 7.6 million children in over 100 nations who received a gift- filled shoe box and the life-changing message of the Gospel since November 2007.

Here is a true story included in the current Operation Christmas Child Special Report: "While distributing Operation Christmas Child shoe box gifts in a village in Ghana, a member of our National Leadership Team noticed the thickly calloused feet of a young boy. 'Please God, Let this boy receive a pair of shoes in his box!' the woman prayed. The boy had never owned a pair of shoes and walked barefooted on a six- mile round trip to school and back to his home each day. When the child opened his box, he found, not just one pair of shoes, but two pair. And both sets of shoes were just his size! The volunteer rejoiced when she saw that God had placed the perfect gift into the hands -- and onto the feet -- of this needy child."

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Season of Prayer and 1st Wednesday

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:3

The emphasis for the season of prayer this week is unity. Jesus prayed for the unity of believers in John 17. We to ought to pray for unity as well. It seems to me that some of the "effort" involved in keeping the unity of the Spirit in the church is the work of prayer.

Would you join together with your brothers and sisters in Christ to pray this evening? From 7:00 to 8:00 PM at New Life Church Riverfalls (1984 McKillican St., West Linn) we are having our monthly "1st Wednesday" corporate time of prayer. See you there!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Monday, March 03, 2008

New Books Available In The Church Library, Riverfalls Campus

What a great day to curl up with a good book and a hot cup of tea! Perhaps you would enjoy one of these new selections available in our church library...

Karon, Jan - Home to Holly Springs (first of the Father Tim Novels)

Kingsbury,Karen - Between SUNDAYS

LaHaye, Tim & Jenkins, Jerry B. -The Jesus Chronicles (Mark's Story)

Miller, Dawn - Promiseland & The Other Side of Jordan (The Journals of Callie McGregor)


Barnes,Bob : 15 Minutes Alone with GOD (FOR MEN) -(242.642 B)

Bright, B & Damoose,J: Red Sky in the Morning (277.3 B)

Cantrell, Bridget C. Ph.D :DOWN RANGE to Iraq and Back (616.85)

Dobson, Dr. James :holding on to your faith even :When GOD Doesn't Make Sense (231.8 D)

Lindsey, Hal : FAITH for Earth's Final Hour (239L)

Lucado, Max : 3:16 : the number of hope (226.5 L)

Weber, Stu : Tender Warrior -God's Intention For a Man (248.84 W)

If you have any questions about our church library, please contact our Librarian Joeleen Montgomery, and don't forget to thank her for the marvelous job she does--what a blessing!

Thank You from Eleanora Larson

Dear New Life Church,
I want to say thank you to everyone who prayed; visited; called; offered help; sent cards, flowers, gifts, etc. I appreciated each and every one, and everything done during my recent illness. I felt very loved and cared for. Bless you all! -- Love, Eleanora