April, 2014 at Ginghamsburg Church, Pastor Mike asks popular Christian blogger and writer Rachel Held Evans if she has doubts about Jesus
Brian gets honest about the pain of adultery, but also how God can restore the inner-most places of our hearts.
An adaptation of the short story by David M. Griebner
Encounter Series Letters
Every week of the Encounter series at Ginghamsburg, there was a specially formatted letter in every bulletin. These letters were never explained, but were designed to bring interested readers on a journey of transformation. It was a peripheral element to give the series a little creative depth. A dear friend of mine crafted the characters, the backstory and each letter into a beautifully written documentation of personal transformation. Here are the letters in their entirety:
My Beloved Nephew,
Your last letter prompted me to write with immediacy, for even though you chose your words carefully and attempted to reflect jovial sentiments, it was evident that you are becoming more like yours truly, a cynic, and less like your father, God rest his soul.
I have lived enough lifetimes to know that this world is a strange and unkind place, but nothing burdens my heart more than knowing you are tasked with this daunting responsibility. your father would have told you to have faith in your maker, but I am not as brave as he.
You may have already derived the notion that I will not return to assist you, nephew. I am bound by my promise to your father. I never understood why we set out to find theis man who has been called a blasphemer, sorcerer and messiah. I fail to believe this person to be the answer to your mother’s ailments, or even the desolation of my own soul, but nevertheless I must fulfill my oath and seek him out. Please understand.
Always and forever, Your Uncle
My Beloved Nephew,
Yes, it is okay to be afraid. You once asked me if I was ever afraid, and of course I puffed my chest out and bellowed, “Me? Afraid? I fear no man or beast! Ha. Ha. Ha.”
Truth is, I am scared more now than ever, because I am uncertain of what the future holds for us. Even as a child, your father never worried about tomorrow. He always cherished the present. He would say, “I may be hungry tomorrow, but God feeds me today so how can I not rejoice?” He was a silly boy, and that is why I loved him.
I kept my promise to your father and found the man we set out for, but this Jesus of Nazareth irks me. He challenges everything we know, our traditions, our riches and even our culture. Today, I saw him encounter a man obligated to bury his father. This Jesus told him to let the “dead bury their own dead,” and to follow him. If he had said this to me regarding your father I would have struck him. And yet, I am searching for my heart to be more like your father’s, and through his eyes I realize that this Jesus is very complex.
How do I picture God? You make me smile, my boy. Although I would rather wrestle God as Jacob did than look upon Him, I would risk my hips to know the embrace of our Lord.
Before they married, your mother once told your father and I that she believed God to have a body like Samson, the face of an old King David, and the heart of King Solomon. Until your father had the courage to ask for her hand, he studied the Song of Songs as if God had commanded it.
I guess I would answer your question with this: Yesterday, some pharisees encountered Jesus with a sinful woman. By law, nephew, she should be stoned, and the man from Nazareth welcomed her assusers to do so. What was astonishing was the fact not one of her accusers raised a single pebble against her. Instead they all left, and Jesus embraced the poor lady. This man embraces people that do not deserve it, but whom need it the most. That is a picture of God I would like to envision. I have many questions for Jesus, and hope to speak to him soon.
Always and Forever, Your Uncle
I feel your anger burning through the ink of your last letter. No, I cannot explain why God allowed your father to fall victim to the illness, nor can I explain why He allows your mother to fall further into it. I wish that I could, my precious child. I pray every day that I could.
Your father would tell you not to allow anger to obstruct your vision from the greatness that lies ahead.
A beggar stricken with blindness encountered Jesus today. Jesus spat on the ground to make mud and placed it on the man’s eyes, then had him was in the Pool of Siloam. He could see, nephew, he could see! This Jesus has captivated the hearts of many. But, like yours, my heart is blinded by anger and I pray that we both allow the mud of whatever love the remains to let us see the light before we are lost.
Always and Forever, Your Uncle
Don’t allow hate to build within you. Siblings can be difficult to deal with, especially when they are young and ignorant of the severity within the times.
I told you father that I hated him once, and it broke him. He loved me without reason, but I was jealous of his great favor with others. I later realized that his belief in me was essential to his person. I allowed hate to possess me, and I was wicked.
Jesus encountered demons today. They had nested within a man, and they seemed to recognize Jesus, spoke with him, and even seemed fearful of him. He cast them out, nephew, and the man was set free. I would not believe it if I had not seen it with my own eyes, but I can no longer deny the man’s importance. Whether he is good or bad I do not know.
Always and Forever, Your Uncle
My Beloved Nephew,
All is not lost. What you have heard is true. Jesus was betrayed by one of his own then arrested. The other eleven were moved to raise their swords, but the Christ commanded against it and went into captivity.
I don’t know why men do as they do, my child. The betrayer of Jesus had everything and yet as your father would say, he had not guarded himself from the evil that works even while we are asleep. I pray his sins are forgiven. Did I learn nothing if I do not?
And what of us? Nephew, I have been encountered by the Son of Man, but not by conventional means. He has awakened my soul and I am returning home with good news. Despair no more.
Have faith in our Lord.
Forever Changed, Your Uncle.
Dave revisits the same church from which he picked a flower for a dying relationship, and found the ultimate relationship.
Meredith’s life was altered after a shattering diagnosis. But God’s healing can transcend all.
April, 2014, the United Methodist Young Pastor’s Network descended upon Ginghamsburg Church for a weeklong training with UMC kingpins Adam Hamilton and Mike Slaughter. When asked “how do you see Ginghamsburg changing the world?”, this was their response.
The first phase of communication is Prayer. Of course you could skip this step. Most of the advertising world does. And even as a church communicator, you could surely move forward with whatever message you like. The chances of your message being a good one might even be in your favor. But we’re not after a good message. We’re after the gospel message. God is good, but not all good is God. Prayer is the practice of asking God exactly what it is God wants you to communicate.
All communication is about starting with a message, and filtering it through a specific medium for an intended receiver. It’s no good to start a project without a defined message. Therefore, before reaching into our back pocket, pause to ask God for one. Clarity of message is where any story starts. What does God want to say? Begin to develop your own rhythm of prayer before the start of any creative project. Ask God to speak through you. Ask God to reveal the vision God has for the final product. Ask God for insight into the mind of your intended receiver (target audience). Ask God to step you through the communication process, and to have attention to detail. Ask God for courage and strength and creative will. Ask God for a spirit of creative genius. Root yourself in humility and ask God that the intended message would reach the receiver intact.
GOAL of PRAYER: Personal humility and clarity of message.
Remember, God doesn’t want your hubris and ability. Rather, God would prefer your humility and availability. I am called, and therefore God equips me. Remembering that I have no idea what I’m doing only strengthens my reliance on God.
5 Phases of Communication
“The medium is the message" is a phrase coined by Marshall McLuhan meaning that the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived.
For example the message of a newscast about a heinous crime may be less about the individual news story itself — the content — and more about the change in public attitude towards crime that the newscast engenders by the fact that such crimes are in effect being brought into the home to watch over dinner. McLuhan describes the “content” of a medium as a juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind. This means that people tend to focus on the obvious, which is the content, to provide us valuable information, but in the process, we largely miss the structural changes in our affairs that are introduced subtly, or over long periods of time (pulled from Wikipedia). I wonder how hymnals have influenced the ways we’ve worshiped over time. Or stained glass, or the screen, or sermons.
-So as communicators, the whole point is to communicate what? A message, right? That’s the whole point of communication. Even when we speak in conversation to one another. That’s all we’re doing. Delivering a message, through the medium of speech, to another person, or a receiver. What Mr. McLuhan is suggesting is, in my opinion, important to understand in a world where we have possibly thousands of media through which to communicate. As communicators, it’s important to understand that one medium may communicate our message more effectively than others.
BUT… regardless of what medium you choose, there are 5 stages that I think are essential to not only telling good stories, but to ensure that your intended message makes it through the filter of your chosen medium intact. Not one of us has full access to the exhaustive list of world media. Surely we have our limits, but our repertoire of options is ever-growing (bulletins, websites, social media, video to name a few). So as church communicators we must do the work to ensure the intended message is the actual message our audience receives
Stop by the blog after #ctw2014 and we’ll get in to each phase, one by one. The first of which is PRAYER
It was an encounter she could’ve never imagined. Accused, shamed and guilty there was nowhere to turn except to him - to forgiveness. Who could refuse such an intervention, an invitation to grace. Check out this clip from worship this past weekend with Pastor Nick. ENCOUNTER… GRACE…an invitation to change. Watch the entire sermon here: http://ift.tt/1fod1si