It is great to be back. I missed you. Our vacation was just what our family needed, a combination of fun, rest, time together, and spiritual renewal. It also concluded in just the right way, with each of us saying, “I’m ready to be home and I’m excited to get back to work.” That’s a great feeling to have and a fitting ending.
As I write this first letter in a few weeks to you, I want to give you a brief update on the portion of my time away that OSEFC allows me for spiritual rest and renewal and tell you about a few exciting, Gospel-centered, purposeful additions in the life of our church that you will see this Sunday morning. You may remember that I told you I would be using my first week away to begin the ordination process with the Evangelical Free Church of America. That process involves some mandatory reading and an extended writing assignment, followed by reviews, defenses, and other work with EFCA pastors. I was encouraged by the progress I made and I am happy to report that my goal of getting a good start on the process was accomplished. While I knew I would not be able to complete all of the introductory work in a single week, I hoped I could make a significant dent in the reading and studying and set myself up for the writing portion throughout the fall. I was able to do that. In fact, I completed all of the required reading and had time to gather and review materials to begin the writing. Unfortunately, with my other pastoral responsibilities, the time is sparse and it will be slow going for a while, but I accomplished as much or even slightly more than I hoped I would.
In addition to that reading and study, I took some time to think and pray about Our Saviour as a body, what God would have us do, where He would have us go, and how we as a church are called to declare the supremacy of Jesus Christ. I believe God gave me some exciting ideas, new directions, and, most importantly, He confirmed my ongoing desire to pastor, shepherd, disciple, and lead Our Saviour. I have a great relationship with our staff and I am confident they feel the same about me, but I get the feeling they have learned to dread my having any time away from our church, because, inevitably, some of the first words out of my mouth when I come back are, “I’ve got a bunch of new ideas…”
So, my time to study and plan was valuable, but many of the fruits of that will not be seen for a little while as it takes time to flesh out ideas, lay groundwork, and communicate vision, but you will see some slightly different things this Sunday and each Sunday from now on. Back in May, Pastor Brandon and I spent a weekend in Washington D.C. observing a healthy church, dreaming about Our Saviour, and talking about bringing glory to God in our church. One of the desires that came out of that time was to make the Word of God and dependence on Him more central in our corporate worship. As we talked about what that may look like, two key areas of focus became apparent. We believed we needed to read more Scripture and pray more together as a congregation. In doing this, we will hear God speak to us directly and more often in His Word and we will declare our dependence on Him more frequently through prayer.
In response to this leading from God, we will begin to read from the Bible two more times and pray together one additional time each Sunday during our worship service. As you know, we have a full schedule on Sunday mornings; so in order to accomplish this without disrupting our other important areas of discipleship and community, these new elements will be brief, but purposeful. In other words, the worship services will remain the same length, but include a few new elements. To give you an idea of what they will look like, I will walk you through them briefly.
Following an opening congregational song and a few announcements, we will read God’s Word and allow it to call us to worship, so as we sing, we will do so in response to who God is and who He has created us to be. Following more congregational singing, we follow the ACTS acrostic, a simple device that reminds Christians to approach prayer holistically. The A stands for Adoration, the C for Confession, the T for Thanksgiving, and the S for Supplication. The way we will do this is by alternating weeks with a corporate prayer of adoration or confession, either preceded or followed by reading from Scripture. After another segment of corporate singing, we will have a prayer of both thanksgiving and supplication each week. This will be where our current offertory prayer takes place. It will combine elements of that prayer that have been present for years, while making the purpose, approach, and content of the time more specific. Following this time, our service will proceed as usual.
In one sense, these changes are very small. In fact, you may not notice them if you did not pay close attention and have not been a part of OSEFC for very long. However, I hope you do notice them. I hope you notice that they communicate our desire to be a Gospel-centered church that takes the Bible seriously and believes it to be true. I hope you notice that we pray often and we pray hard, because when we do, we proclaim that God is sovereign, holy, loving, and good and He is both worthy of our praise and generous to those who love Him. These are small changes, but they are important. I hope you notice them, but do not just see them, participate in them. They are not designed for a few people to speak into microphones more, but for the people of Our Saviour to worship God with greater awe and to be moved to deeper dependence on Him. In other words, they are for you. Use them. Love them. Worship through them. Be blessed by them. Give God glory in them. That’s what I’m praying will happen in my heart and that’s what I’m praying will happen in yours.
I can’t wait to worship with you this Sunday. May God bring us together quickly for His glory and our good.