Before the service many of us met for breakfast and a time of dialogue pertaining to church growth and visioning for our future. All members are invited to these breakfast meetings as we explore expectations and our role in the community.
Brad began our discussion with the maxim, "You can't have resurrection without death." Pam followed with a passage from I Corinthians 15:3-4 that affirms this principle of death and life, thus leading into two of our discussion questions today.
1. What needs to die in order for us to live?
2. What programs or ideas were effective in the past are now limiting the health & growth of the church?
Walt noted that growth challenges some of a small church's strengths, which kicked off a good discussion about who we are and what are the qualities that have attracted people here to our church family.
We also began to tackle a third question: How do we view and handle conflict? Conflict is inevitable in churches because of the differences amongst us. It was noted that discernment is important so that we know which differences are deal breakers and core issues, and which are simple peripheral.
All in all, the discussion was good, the insights many.
The service began with a video about the work of MN Teen Challenge, with an introduction to the needs in our culture which led to the founding of this organization. Substance abuse and drug addiction cripples tens of millions of lives, and impacts millions more. I was struck by the statistic that the Twin Cities is one of the most intoxicated in America. Adults of all ages come into the program in an effort to find a new hope and build for themselves a better life.
The group of men stood at the front to sing and share testimonies. The songs were moving, with the opening number being Jeremy Riddle's Sweetly Broken.
A young man named Peter shared his story, from Christian home to being locked up in prison. A man named John shared his story, and how his addictions resulted in "hurting everyone I knew." This was a very special time in the service leaving very few untouched.
Josh, the son of a pastor who ended up doing a year in prison in Portland, noted that the men who were with us today had a variety of different experiences but all shared this common denominator: "I fell hard and I need your prayers."
The group of men sang a number of songs, and shared other stories with us. Afterwards, we also shared a meal with them. Many more personal stories were passed along. Each has a story. Each has value. These are men, not throwaways. May God be praised.