Done! (Almost)

Discernment Team at Work
Part of our discernment team after finishing the rough draft of our foundational statement

Everyone’s smiling because we’re done with the Foundational Statement! Well… we’re done with the rough draft anyway. It has been numerous sessions with a lot of hard work, but we are almost there. I had to take a picture to preserve the moment with all of the papers strewn everywhere. Pulling all of our ideas together into something coherent was not easy! If you could see the whiteboard in the front of the room it would show even more of the chaos. Each individual component of our statement (Jesus, Church, Salvation, Service, & Evangelism) has been worked and reworked. Now we take a breather, reflect on it again, and hopefully we will put the finishing touches on it this Sunday.

I have to say that even though it has been a lot of intellectual work so far, it has also been a spiritually rewarding process. Thinking deeply about our most cherished ideas about our relationship with Jesus and trying to put those into words is rewarding in itself. Discussing those ideas and trying to reach consensus with a group of other believers is even more so. We are truly blessed to have an amazing and enthusiastic group of people working on our team. We have a lot of fun, but everyone is also willing to speak up, disagree, listen, and compromise. I look forward to being able to share the results of all our labor with you soon.

Speaking of labor… the Andersons are expecting their first child any day now! We look forward to meeting the newest member to our discernment team and potentially the youngest member of our new church.

Farmhouse, Mission Center, New Church

I continue to be surprised at the new ways people are seeking to live out church community in the midst of a rapidly changing culture. I wonder where God will take us? Take a look at the following article from the PCUSA website (there is a link to the NCD website at the end of the article):

Farmhouse becomes mission center to house new church development

To grow church literally on six acres halfway between Dallas and Forth Worth

OCTOBER 4, 2011

General Assembly Mission Council


Office of Church Growth

Imagine a new mission center in a farmhouse, housing a new congregation in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). As project co-pastor Shane Whisler puts it, “We asked ourselves: what if you started a church by putting the mission committee in charge?”

Whisler and his wife Pat Felter are leading a new ministry called East Broad Outreach Center in Mansfield, Texas.  Their vision for this new church development, supported by

Grace Presbytery, Synod of the Sun and the General Assembly Mission Council, is to create a mission center that houses a Presbyterian congregation.

Already they are growing — literally. They’ve planted an organic community garden next to the small farmhouse to add fresh flavor to their food pantry. This summer, the garden helped feed up to six large families a week. “You can’t always tell by looking, but there is great cultural and economic diversity here,” says Whisler. “In some of the newer homes, families are struggling to pay their mortgages. We also know there is large population of veterans around us, some homeless. We’re working with a local VFW post trying to locate them and make sure they feel welcome here.”

Shane Whisler of East Broad Outreach Center poses with custom made clothing made by a woman who works part time at a silk screening business. She did so out of gratitude for the food and moral support given to her at the new church development in Mansfield, Texas.

Whisler has heard stories of combat veterans who take great comfort in holding a guitar in their hands instead of a rifle. “We could do something like that here. It’s just a matter of us finding the people God wants to reach and being flexible enough to listen to God’s spirit.”

Whisler is quick to credit the vision for this mission center outreach to leadership within Grace Presbytery and a dedicated steering committee that opened the door to him and his wife in October 2010. “The Holy Spirit and mission work, big and small, across our denomination are our inspiration for this approach to church planting,” he says. “The vision for this mission center lined up exactly with what we’d been praying about for seven years,” adds Felter.

In addition to the organic community garden, the mission center offers a “back-to-work clothes closet” for people seeking employment for the first or fourth time in this difficult economy. Word is spreading; folks are making deposits of food and clothing in the plastic bin under the carport. “One woman was so grateful for the food and moral support,” says Whisler, “she told her boss at her part-time silk screening job about us. Two weeks later she delivered 25 custom printed East Broad Outreach Center t-shirts and hats for only one dollar each.”

As Whisler and Felter develop this new faith based community, they are deeply committed to showing peace, justice and love. Their first monthly worship service is on Saturday, October 8.  They already host meditation and discussion sessions called Friday Night Candle Lights. They are building relationships with the growing number of folks who aren’t members, who come to the farmhouse to do hands-on mission work. They also host a monthly faith and music exploration event at a local restaurant in this growing city of 60,000. “I was an interior designer in my first life,” says Felter. “I went back to Austin Seminary where I met Shane. When I volunteered for mission work up in Alaska, I thought I’d be a missionary. Turns out I am one in Mansfield.”

A father of two Girl Scouts installs an automatic drip irrigation system this spring in the organic community garden at East Broad Outreach Center, Mansfield, Texas. He volunteered for the job and donated many left over supplies from his own yard work.

Felter has a “bucket list” of things she’d like the mission center to work on, including stopping human trafficking. “I have a hard time keeping up with Pat’s ideas,” Whisler says, to laughter from both of them. “Shane will go out and find community,” she says, “and I’ll organize.”

East Broad Outreach Community is home to three Girl Scout troops who bring additional life to the property. “They held a day camp here that brought 130 girls and volunteers together,” says Whisler. Whisler met a father from one of the Girl Scout Troops when he offered his help. “The father installed an automatic drip irrigation system in our garden and taught me how to add to it.”

Whisler has also developed “a great partnership” with Trinity Presbyterian Church in Mansfield. Using Facebook, he hopes to get additional partners from all over the country to pray for the mission center that houses a worshiping community. “We would also love to host mission teams that could travel here to help develop the property so we can use it to teach core values of environmental stewardship, peacemaking and faith building.” Felter adds. “Come see us at”

via Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – News & Announcements – Farmhouse becomes mission center to house new church development.

Travel Light

Too often concern for the status of the church tempts some to employ desperate measures to insure that the church will remain socially significant or at least have a majority of the population. But the church is not called to be significant or large. The church is called to be apostolic. Faithfulness, not numbers or status, should be the characteristic that shapes the witness of the church. Indeed it may well be the case in our time that God is unburdening the church so that we can again travel light.

I ran across this while reading Stanley Hauerwas’s commentary on Matthew 10 (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible). I’m preparing to preach on this text this week and I continue to find God affirming that the task ahead is about faithfulness. If I begin fall into the trap of thinking about success/failure rather than faithfulness then my focus begins to be more about me than about Jesus and his mission.

Super Rough Drafts

It was a Super Bowl Sunday to remember! The game was a good one for those who like a well-fought competition. It would’ve been better if the Pats had won, but you can’t have everything. The commercials were alright I suppose (seems like the creativity was lacking a bit). But what makes this Superbowl Sunday memorable was that I fell asleep watching the game. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but it happened. And the reason it happened is because of this:

Whiteboard covered with text describing Jesus
Our first drafts: Who is Jesus?

We spent two hours after church with the discernment team starting to write our foundational statement. Actually, we never got beyond the first question: “Who is Jesus?” It was invigorating, challenging, and ultimately exhausting!  What you see in the picture was our first, individual attempts at the question. We then tried to identify common themes and anything essential we needed to add. After that we gathered in three small groups creating consolidated statements before we wrapped things up in time for kickoff. Now we are close! Our hope is that we will wrap up this first question at the beginning of our next meeting and then begin what should be a bit easier: defining church, evangelism, service, and salvation.

Tozer’s Take

Just this week I picked up a book I have long been meaning to read: The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer. I immediately recognized that the Spirit was behind this as I read the first chapter and realized how relevant it is for the work we are doing in our discernment team right now. Here is an excerpt:

     Before the Christian Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, “What is God like?” and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.

The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him – and of her. In all her prayers and labors this should have first place. We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past.

I find it interesting that Tozer points out that we can have a great “nominal creed” (as we Presbyterians do in The Book of Confessions), and yet our “working creed” or what we really believe about God and act on can be distorted. That is why it is essential for us to begin here, and specifically to begin with the incarnate Word, Jesus. What is it about Jesus that we believe at our core? Is that accurate? How do we act on that understanding as we seek to follow him in our place in our time?