Monthly Archives: April 2020

Missing Sundays at Central Church

On Sundays, back when we used to gather for worship on Sundays (do you remember those good ol’ days?), I’d grab a McDonald’s coffee, then proceed to Donna’s Donuts for a sour cream donut. I’m pretty sure that Donna’s sour cream donuts will be on the buffet line in heaven? Before 6AM, I was in my office, looking over my sermon and praying for the day.

Usually, one by one, the pastors would start to arrive. Nate and Pastor Enosh first– the rest soon followed. At 8:30 we assembled in the conference room for prayer and any updates. Doc Anthony sat in the big chair because, well, he’s Doc Anthony. Generally, I sat on one side and Jon Gildner on the other and all the pastors mixed around. I love ministering alongside these people.

Following prayer, back in my office, I grab my microphone, iPad, service orders, prayer requests, two bottles of water (one per service), and place it all on the front pew in the sanctuary. I tell Nate and Enosh how my sermon should end (Holy Spirit willing) so they are ready to lead the closing song when the time comes.

By then, the first folks for the choir service begin to trickle in. I’d make my way around the sanctuary, greeting the early birds, before heading out to the lobby. Usually a couple of ladies (Sandy Dodge and Jean Robertson) are already at the Information desk. They’ve put candy in the great big dish. I’d grab a Tootsie Roll and ask them about their week.

On my way to the Central Café, I’d say “welcome” to anyone within view. Larry Senter usually is somewhere between the info desk and the café and we talk about which losing Detroit sports team lost on Saturday. I’d greet the greeters and valet parkers at the east doors. The baristas in the café are already making coffee and a few folks are sitting in the booths. I welcome them and move into the Chenoweth Center. At the round table in the northwest corner is a group of men. Doc calls it the “table of knowledge” or something like that. They usually give me great (cough cough) advise about life.

Ron and Cathy Sadler are setting up the room for the 80+ people who’ll show up for Ron’s lesson. As I leave the Chenoweth center, I’d stick my head into the kitchen and say “hi” to Jerry Spears who’s making coffee, then greet the 4 South door greeters. Some running-a-tad-late choir members are coming through the doors. I greet them too, making them even more late. As I head toward our nurseries, I’d greet another half dozen folks in the back hallways. Pastor Wendy and the nursery crew are going over their duties for the day, when I’d stick my head in the room and thank our awesome nursery staff for the great job they do loving our youngest worshippers. Then it’s back to the sanctuary.

Coming in through the platform door, I enter by the brass section. We have some great musicians in the orchestra. I say “Hello” to Toni Webb our percussionist and proceed to greet as many folks as humanly possible. At 9:28 or so, the announcements have started and I’m in my familiar spot on the front row. Plug in my microphone (hopefully), the choir service is about to begin.

The next two services and three hours fly by. The music is great. The prayer times are wonderful. Sometimes I like the sermons. Sometimes they stink. The people of Central are kind even after a stinker. I have yet to be hit by a rotten tomato. Afterwards, I hang out in the foyer until it’s time to go home for Karla’s tasty Sunday dinner.

Another great Sunday morning is in the books.

Why write about my former Sunday morning schedule? I miss it all! Every bit of it. I really miss you! I can’t wait until we are together again. In the meantime, keep looking to Jesus. Keep praying for Central Church, me and all the pastors. Keep joining our livestreamed services and keep inviting your friends to tune in too. Keep giving. Keep loving. Keep caring. Keep serving. Keep being the wonderful people of God!

For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, and I rejoice to see your morale and the firmness of your faith in Christ. As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. – Colossians 2:5-7, NRSV

What if the Coronavirus transforms the Church (in ways we couldn’t expect or predict– a Pessimistic Optimist’s View)

What if we never go back to “2019 Normal”?
What if covid-19 kills live in-person sporting events?
What if gathering in large groups becomes a thing of the past?
What if colleges go to on-line instruction only?
What if someone takes your temperature before entering a building?
What if wearing masks becomes a way of life?
What if the way we “do” church never goes back to the way it was?
What if the coronavirus kills the mega church era?
What if believers were to meet in small groups instead of mass gatherings?
What if churches moved from massive buildings, massive debts and multiple staffs to small intimate gatherings in every neighborhood and apartment complex?
What if preachers sermonizing to an iPhone camera instead of a congregation was the new pulpit and means of proclamation?
What if group Bible chats on-line became the new discipleship method?
What if one-to-one seasoned Christian mentors became the most needed and valuable church resource?
What if parents took on the role of spiritual leaders instead of relying on children’s and youth pastors?
What if the priesthood of all believers took on a new deeper, richer meaning”
What if God transforms the “new normal” into a better, cheaper and more fruitful means of spreading the Gospel?
What if Covid-19 brought a revival like we could have never foresaw or envisioned?
What if we look back on the days when we all gathered and worshipped together with great fondness, but still were rejoicing at the millions of new converts?
What if we trust in the God who saw Jesus upend the religious authorities in the first century and Martin Luther shake the church world in the 16th Century and Covid-19 usher in a new church era in the 21st Century?
What if we continue to believe Jesus words in Matthew 16:18 (I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it) even if the Church looks very different than what we have ever known?
What if things never go back to the way they were and we concluded that the new way of doing church was more effective in making Christ-like disciples than the old way of doing church…

and isn’t that the point of the Church— making Christ-like disciples?

What if the Coronavirus Curse is Transformed into a Blessing

What if God used a pandemic for his glory.
What if people took this time to evaluate the direction of their lives
What if we remembered that the most important things aren’t “things” at all.
What if we recognized the worth of those who stock our grocery shelves, deliver our mail and pick up our trash.
What if we viewed first responders and medical professionals as heroes once more
What if we loved our neighbor just a little bit more.
What if we called on widows a little more frequently
What if we noticed that those living and working in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are people too
What if we read our Bible a little bit deeper.
What if we prayed a little bit harder for those children whose stay-at-home order has increased the potential for their abuse (with no one seeing the evidence of bruises or dysfunction and no one reporting)
What if we saw the value in face to face gatherings
What if we determined to be thankful for this time spent with family
What if we diagnosed that too much unhealthy energy is spent on news outlets, social media platforms and foolish arguments
What if we calculated how much time is wasted by sports
What if (after the pandemic) people continued to check on their neighbor’s well-being.
What if we came through this pandemic as better followers of Jesus; more committed to be like Him
What if we renewed our passion for gathering for worship
What if the Church emerged from the pandemic stronger than ever
What if revival broke out among the peoples of the world
What if in twenty years we looked back on these days and remembered the horribleness of it all and the lives lost and the businesses damaged, but could also reflect on how God worked in many miraculous ways
What if the coronavirus curse is turned into a blessing.

What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— Romans 9:22-23