The Hope House Project

There is a crisis taking place in Philadelphia.

  • 1,200 non fatal drug overdoses in 2016
  • 907 deaths due to drug overdose in 2016
  • 225% increase in overdoses in the past 10 years
  • 127 increase in overdose treatment from 2013-2016

Philadelphia is becoming one of the deadliest places for drug overdoses in the country.   I have personally known 18 people from my neighborhood who died due to drug overdose in the past two years.  Several of them had even attended Christ Church.  I am grateful for the faith that was stirred in their hearts and confident of where their eternal souls reside.  But I am tired of seeing people come to Christ Church to only end up back out on the street and eventually in a casket.

Christ Church cannot sit idly by as this crisis kills our friends, neighbors and family.  We pray and mourn, but we also believe God has called us to act.  Several months ago Christ Church launched an addictions ministry called Transformation to RecoveryI am very excited to announce that starting today we are also raising funds to purchase our first home for those who struggle with addiction.  We are calling this The Hope House Project, because we believe that God will use this house to bring renewed hope to those who, right now, are lost in darkness.  

Hope House will be:

  • A recovery house for men who struggle with substance abuse and addiction.
  • A no judgment, grace filled place that welcomes anyone.
  • A ministry of Christ Church as part of our Transformation to Recovery program.
  • A connection to a local church family that will support, give discipleship and mentorship to the men in the home.
  • An access point to social services, as well as, mental and behavioral health care through our coalition partners.
  • An opportunity to not just gain sobriety, but to experience life transformation.

We are in unprecedented territory as we have not been able to find any other church in our area that has a recovery house fully integrated into the life of their church.  

We need help!

  1. Please pray
    The increasing crisis shows the power that the prince of darkness has in our city.  We need God to come and empower our efforts, give us favor and break through with the light of His love.

  2. Consider making a one time gift or 12 month pledge
    If you are thinking about making an end of the year contribution, would you consider giving to this project?  You can give on our brand new website, Transformation to Recovery, or by mailing a check to 229 Moore Street Philadelphia, PA 19148.  All checks can be made out to Christ Church South Philly with Hope House in the memo line.  Whether it is a one time gift, or monthly pledge, every dollar given helps us reach more lives.

  3. Help us get the word out
    Please share this blog post and our website with your social network.  A simple way to do that is by just saying "More than 3 people in Philadelphia are dying every day due to drug overdose.  Will you help?  https://transformationtorecovery.com"  The more people we can get praying and giving, the more work that we can be empowered to do.

O church, arise, and put your armor on;
Hear the call of Christ our captain.
For now the weak can say that they are strong
In the strength that God has given.
With shield of faith and belt of truth,
We’ll stand against the devil’s lies.
An army bold, whose battle cry is love,
Reaching out to those in darkness.

Our call to war, to love the captive soul,
But to rage against the captor;
And with the sword that makes the wounded whole,
We will fight with faith and valor.
When faced with trials on every side,
We know the outcome is secure.
And Christ will have the prize for which He died:
An inheritance of nations. -  Keith and Kristy Geatty

Amen!

Pastor Jeff

 



 

Story Saturday- Making a Difference with a Present

One of the things I love about Christ Church is that so many people have a burden on their heart for the nations to hear about the good news of Jesus.  Some of our of the leading advocates for have been our children’s ministry leaders: Steve and Megan Crowelll.  One of the things that they have led us in us participating Operation Christmas Child.  This ministry seeks to put together shoe boxes of presents for children in other countries and through giving them these presents, get them involved in bible studies where they can learn about Christ. 

We are not that big a church, but we were able to fill 47 boxes, as well as, raise some money to support this mission.  We always have a blast doing this as a church family and getting the kids involved so that their young hearts can be engaged with God’s global mission.

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See you around the neighborhood,

Pastor Jeff

you can connect with me:

On twitter:  @Pastor_Jeff

On Facebook: Jeff Boettcher

Book recommendations from 2017

My love for reading started as a child.  My Mom would read to us every day for almost an hour and this sparked in me an enduring passion to read.  Yet, reading is becoming more and more a dying art.  I recently read an article in Time Magazine entitled, “Reading makes us smarter and nice”.  In it author Annie Murphy Paul writes,

Raymond Mar, a psychologist at York University in Canada, and Keith Oatley, a professor emeritus of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto, reported in studies published in 2006 and 2009 that individuals who read often appear to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and view the world from their perspective.

“Deep reading” — as opposed to the often superficial reading we do on the Web — is an endangered practice, one we ought to take steps to preserve as we would a historic building or a significant work of art. Its disappearance would imperil the intellectual and emotional development of generations growing up online, as well as the perpetuation of a critical part of our culture: the novels, poems and other kinds of literature that can be appreciated only by readers whose brains, quite literally, have been trained to apprehend them.

Reading is a skill whose loss will be felt (and is being felt) by society.  For Christians this is skill is made all the more important, because psychological and sociological benefits aside, the most basic reason to grow as a reader is this; God gave us a book about Himself.  If we want to grow in our knowledge and relationship with God, then few skills are more important than growing as a reader.

If you love to read or are trying to grow in this skill (and joy!), here are some recommendation from my favorite books that I read this past year.  Any of these would make a great Christmas present to put on your list, or to get for someone else.

Fiction

The Chronicles of Narnia Series by C.S. Lewis

A highlight of my year was reading through the first four books of this series with my children.   I had to finish the series by myself, because the last few books are over my children’s head.  Every time I read this series, I am usually moved to tears at several points.  Lewis’s powerful allegories bring scriptural truths to light, making these books not just compelling stories, but revealers of deep spiritual truth. Thought these are written for children, anyone would be enriched by reading these stories.

Timekeeper by Mitch Albom

I went on a Mitch Albom kick this year, reading 6 of his books and loved them all.  This was my favorite though as he deals with ideas of time and what really matters in life.  This is a quick read and great place to start if you are trying to grow as a reader.

The Portrait of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilder

This is classic book that I have read many times and wanted to revisit this year, because of its insight into human nature.  Dark and sinister, Wilde gives (unintentionally) a biblical picture of the depravity of man’s heart.  If you want to be provoked to deeper thought, this would be a good book to read.

Strange Case of Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

I prefer novel length stories to short stories, but this is one of my literary works and I try to read it every few years.  Like Portrait, I think this short story has tremendous insights about our human nature.  I like to read books that are entertaining and make me think and this book definitely fits that category.

Non Fiction

Deep Work by Cal Newport

In our fast paced culture that idolizes being able to “multi-task” Cal Newport makes a compelling case from history, psychological research and personal anecdotes about the dying art of focus and the need to be able to engage in “deep work”.  He argues that being able to do “deep work” is the determining factor of success in today’s market.  I found this book intriguing and have changed certain parts of my work habits as a result.

Unbroken by Lauren Hillbrand

This book has been recommended to me for years and I finally got a chance to read it.  Incredible story of survival, courage, despair and redemption of a bomber pilot during WWII.  One of my new all time favorite  books.

A God Sized Vision by Colin Hansen and John Woodbridge

This is a short survey of the history of some of God’s greatest revivals. A very  encouraging and faith inspiring read

End of the Spear by Steve Saint

This is the biography of Steve Saint, the son of Nick Saint.  Nick Saint was one of the missionaries who was murdered along with Jim Elliot as they were trying to bring the good news of Jesus to the Aucas.  In this story, Steve gives his account of the effect of this event on his life, the revival that ending up happening among the Aucas and how he led his family from the comforts of America to the wild jungle in response to the call of Jesus.  This book will challenge you as you think about sacrifice, bold witness and the power of the gospel.

D-D By Stephen Ambrose

I’m a sucker for books about WWII and Stephen Ambrose is one of my favorite authors.  He makes history come alive and this is a very readable and accessible book.

Theology

Union with Christ by Rankin Wilbourne

I am so encouraged to see the plethora of new books coming out on this vital topic.  Our union with Christ is one of the most, if not the most, important things we need to understand about our faith.  Yet, I think it is something that is very often overlooked.  This book is theological rich, while also being readable and accessible.  Highly recommend.

The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson

This book is the best book I read all year.  Sinclair Ferguson is one of my favorite authors, because not only is he theological rich, but he writes in a very clear and easy to follow style. Out of all that he has written,  I think this is his best book.  In the Whole Christ he explores the “marrow controversy” which took place in Scotland during the early 20th century.  Through this he explores crucial questions like; What is the ‘marrow’ or the core of the gospel?  How can we have assurance of salvation?  What is the role of repentance and good works?   Highly, highly recommend.

Making sense of God by Tim Keller

Anyone who goes to Christ Church knows I’m a huge Tim Keller fan.  His unique blend of socially informed, well research and theological solid writing is a work of art that every Christian can benefit from.  This book is not written primarily for Christians though, but for those who say “So what?” when you try to share with them about Christ.  Pastor Keller builds a compelling case about why God is crucial to living a meaningful life.  Great book to equip you to engage your neighbors and co-workers.  Maybe you could read it with them?

Leadership

Nehemiah

It is cheating to put a book of the Bible on here, but I can’t help myself.  Going through our Nehemiah series has been a tour de force for me in learning about leadership.  Not many of those insights have made it into my sermons, because I don’t think they are the main point of the text.  However, if you want to grow as a leader, I can’t think of any better use of your time then to study the life of Nehemiah.  If you want to study Nehemiah through a “leadership lens”, I highly recommend James Boice’s commentary in the Expositional Commentary series.

Crucial Conversations

This was probably my favorite secular book that I read all year.  It is incredibly insight about the contours of communication and full of (unintended) biblical wisdom.  If you want to grow in navigating hard conversations with your spouse, your children, or in your business, then this NY best seller is a tremendous place to start.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

As soon as I finished reading this book, I immediately started right over again.  As a highly driven, type A personality, this book was a God send to help me grow in discerning not just what is good to do, but what is the best thing to do.  If you feel like your life is cluttered and that you have too much going on, but don’t know what to cut out, you need to read this book.

Integrity by Dr. Henry Cloud

This book is about 6 character qualities that are positive prognosticators for success in life.  This is a secular book, but full of biblical wisdom.  It is easy to read and very applicable, especially for those in leadership.

Christian Life

Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges

This is another book that is on my regular rotation of books that I read.  Holiness is not something that gets talked about much in Christian circles and yet it is what God calls his all followers to pursue.  Jerry Bridges is a winsome and accessible author who knows how to break things down and make them easily applicable.  Everyone should read this book at some point in their life and more than just once.

Tech Wise family by Andy Crouch

Technology has had a tremendous impact on us.  Technology saves lives every day, has improved our quality of life in many ways and is something we interact with on a regular basis.  However, psychological study after psychological study are coming out about the negative effect that certain kinds of technology can have on us, particular that of the effect of screens and our children.  This is a wonderful book about how to put some things in place in your life to help keep technology positive without suffering its detrimental side effects.  Any book that gets me to change how I do things is a book that I think is worth recommending.  This book has changed things in my family for the better.

Happy reading!

Pastor Jeff

connect with me:

On twitter:  @Pastor_Jeff

On Facebook: Jeff Boettcher

Story Saturday- The Hope House Project

This past Sunday we had a significant announcement at our church service.  For the past few weeks we have been pouring out our hearts and crying out to God for Him to move against the stranglehold that addiction has on our city.  The number of addicted people is soaring in the Philadelphia area in general, and South Philadelphia in particular.  

907 deaths in Philly 2016

1,200 overdoses non fatal in 2017

33% increase of overdoses from 2016-2017

37% increase in fatal overdoses from 2016-2017

Philadelphia continues to spend an astronomical amount on programs and systems to fight addiction, but their efforts continue to fall short in stemming the growth.  We believe that a drastically different approach is required.   Secular services are limited in their efforts, because they treat addiction as only a disease.  This removes the addicted from their need for a Savior, since their “disease” is not the addict’s responsibility.  However, while there certainly are psychological and biological factors to addiction, at its root it is a spiritual issue.  Therefore, true freedom can only be found in the Savior's forgiveness and the Holy Spirit’s power to overcome the sinful choice to use drugs.  As Dr. Paul Tripp has said,  “Our cure is not a system, nor a program.  It is a person and His name is Jesus.”

There are many social services and recovery homes in Philadelphia that are doing tremendous work for those who struggle with addiction.  However, we are not aware of any recovery homes in South Philadelphia that are connected to a local church.  Therefore, a major component of full recovery is missing, as the spiritual issue of addiction necessitates transformation within a spiritual community.  

We cannot sit idly by as this crisis kills our friends, neighbors and family.  We pray and mourn, but we also believe God has called us to act.  So on December 17th we are starting a fundraising campaign called The Hope House Project.  Here is what we are praying this project will accomplish:

  1. Turn our existing recovery ministry, Transformation to Recovery, into its own 501c3 so that we can offer a wider range of services to those in need.

  2. Purchase a home for men who struggle with addiction where we can bring accountability, discipleship and integration into the life of our church as they pursue their recovery process.

  3. Start a sustainable business that will provide meaningful employment to those whose background prevents them from getting hired elsewhere, as well as help fund the ongoing operation of Hope House.

  4. Save money to be able to purchase and start a home for women who struggle with substance abuse.

How you can help:

  1. Please pray
    The increasing number of deaths by overdose shows the power that the prince of darkness has and how much he hates what we are trying to do.  We need God to come and empower our efforts, give us favor and break through with the light of His love.

  2. Consider making a one time gift or 12 month pledge on December 17th.
    If you are thinking about making an end of the year contribution, we would love to have it go towards this project.  If you aren’t in a position to do so, another way to get involved is to make a pledge of what you could contribute on a monthly basis.  Checks can be made out to Christ Church with Hope House Project in the memo line.

  3. Help us get the word out
    We are developing a website, social media presence, brochure and other resources to help us get the word out.  Our desire is to have this ready by December 10th.  Your help in getting the word out will make a huge difference.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jeff

You can connect with me:

On twitter:  @Pastor_Jeff

On Facebook: Jeff Boettcher



 



 

Celebrating Advent

This Sunday marks the start of the Advent season.  Advent comes from the Latin word meaning “anticipation”.  Throughout church history the four weeks preceding Christmas have been set aside by Christians to intentionally focus on anticipating the celebration of the birth of Christ.  This is a great time, especially for families, to do devotions together that help deepen and grow your affections for the Savior by meditating on His incarnation.  Below are some resources that can help:

FOR TODDLERS AND PRESCHOOLERS:

http://www.amazon.com/M-Manger-Crystal-Bowman/dp/1496401956/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1448851962&sr=1-1&keywords=m+is+for+manger

FOR FAMILIES WITH VARYING AGES:

http://www.myoverthinking.com/2015/11/28/the-story-has-just-begun-advent-readings/

http://www.amazon.com/Journey-Manger-Calendar-Adventures-Odyssey/dp/1589978242/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1448851910&sr=1-2&keywords=focus+on+the+family+advent

http://cdn.desiringgod.org/pdf/books_btgt/btgt.pdf

FOR FAMILIES WITH OLDER KIDS:

http://www.amazon.com/Prepare-Him-Room-Celebrating-Devotional/dp/1939946530

http://www.amazon.com/Christ-Christmas-Family-Advent-Celebration/dp/0891096051/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1448851935&sr=1-1&keywords=christ+in+christmas

FOR ADULTS:

http://www.amazon.com/Behold-Lamb-God-Russ-Ramsey/dp/0988963280/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1448852002&sr=1-1&keywords=behold+the+lamb

http://www.desiringgod.org/books/the-dawning-of-indestructible-joy

http://www.desiringgod.org/books/good-news-of-great-joy
 

FOR MUSIC LOVERS:

http://www.myoverthinking.com/2013/12/11/preparing-christmas-song-advent-hymns/

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/behold-lamb-god-10th-anniversary/id343446118

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/prepare-him-room-celebrating/id1056220580

Praise God our Immanuel!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jeff


 

Praying for more Story Saturdays

As we enter into the final months of 2017, I am amazed as I look back at all the stories that God has written over this past year.  I have loved writing these “Story Saturday” testimonies about all that God is doing and I am convinced that one of the reasons that God has been moving so powerfully is because they are so many people who are praying so faithfully for Christ Church.

This weekend I am going away with our interns, pastor in training and advisory team to take some unhurried time to look back at this past year and forward to next year.  This is a significant and strategic time as we start to put plans together for moving forward on mission in 2018.  So could you please pray for us this weekend? Please pray that God would use our time away to help us make decisions that would open the door for God to write more Story Saturdays at Christ Church..

You can pray specifically that:

1.     God would meet us and encourage us through our fellowship together.  More than anything we want to be filled afresh with the Holy Spirit so that our leadership would be empowered by the love of Christ dwelling richly in our hearts.

2.     God would direct our conversations, giving us clarity of thought and openness of heart, so that we might come to unified decisions for the good of the church.

3.     God would bless us with creativity and insight into how to best continue to grow as a healthy local church.

4.     God would give us strength to work hard as we pour ourselves into this time away.

5.     God would meet us and lead us to greater trust in him as we continue to seek to lay down our lives in service of Christ Church.

Gratefully,

Pastor Jeff

You can connect with me:

On twitter:  @Pastor_Jeff

On Facebook: Jeff Boettcher

 

 

Learning how to medidate

I was recently discussing with some of our leaders the importance of continually cultivating our spiritual life.  This is something that every follower of Jesus should care deeply about and so I’ve included my notes for your benefit below.

Let’s stay tight to Jesus!

Pastor jeff
 

The Leader and Their Spiritual Life

I. Why our spiritual life matters

·       Christian leadership is different from secular leadership in that our leadership is not only measured by our competency, but also by our character.

Set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (1Ti 4:12 ESV)

·       Godly character needs to be cultivated.

train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1Ti 4:7-8 ESV)

·       Godly character is cultivated not through behavior modification, but heart transformation.

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Pro 4:23 ESV)

·       Goal is to work on who we are

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2Co 3:18 ESV)

“Our souls function like photographic plates, and Christ’s shining image is the light.  The more we expose our lives to the white-hot sun of His righteous life, the more His image will be burned into our character.”- R. Kent Hughes

·       We become what we behold

·       Continual growth as a Christian comes from seeing Christ more and more clearly through the power of the Holy Spirit

II.  How do we cultivate these spiritual eyes?

“Whatever varying religious exercises we may practice, without the two basic ones of Emmaus, prayer and Bible reading- the others are empty and powerless- Cal Lundquist

A.  Bible reading

man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deu 8:3 ESV)

i. Wrong ways to read the Bible

Our tendency can be to approach scripture in a way that is self serving.

1.       Osmosis approach

Being around scripture means it is having an effect on my life.

2.       Jeopardy approach

Knowing facts about scripture

3.       Hallmark card approach

Looking for scripture for some nice inspiration.

4.       Magic drug approach

Only look to God’s word in crisis.

5.       The Mary Kay approach

Go to scripture to make us feel better about ourselves.

6.       The microwave approach

What is in it for me and how quickly could I get it?

ii.   Convictions Necessary for a Functional Doctrine of Scripture  (i.e., things you need to really believe about the Bible)

A.    The “God-breathedness” of Scripture –

·       God has spoken something objective. God has spoken something specific. Imagine God’s looking out at you from every page of scripture.

·       God is a self revealing God.  He desires to make himself known.

·       God continues to speak by what He has spoken.

B.    The “Understandableness” of Scripture –

·       There is such a thing as the right handling of God’s word.

·       Not only does God want to say something, he wants us to get it.

·       The revelation of God in the Bible is meant to be understood.

·       “Communication” comes from the Latin to have “in common”.  God wants what he is thinking in his mind to be in our mind.

Consider all the things Scripture claims it can do

Ø  initiates faith – Romans 10:17

Ø  gives new spiritual life – I Peter 1:23; James 1:18

Ø  helps us grow – I Peter 2:2; I Thess. 2:13; Acts 20:32

Ø  sanctifies – John 17:17; Eph. 5:26

Ø  searches and convicts – Heb. 4:12

Ø  liberates – John 8:31-32

Ø  refreshes and renews (and all sorts of other things) – Psalm 119

Ø  A closer look at a Scriptural gem - Psalm 19:7-11

Simply put, it is God’s intention (i.e., both his design and his desire) to nurture us by his Word.  In fact, Scripture is the primary means by which God effects our sanctification.  Our responsibility is to create opportunities for the Word to exercise this intended effect.- Mike Bullmore

B.  Prayer

Continue steadfastly in prayer,  (Col 4:2 ESV)

pray without ceasing, (1Th 5:17 ESV)

“My chief help [in reading Scripture] is prayer.  Whenever I study a single part of divine truth, I always gain some light about it after praying and meditating…But no one should expect to see much good resulting from his labors if he does not spend time in prayer and meditation.”  George Muller in his autobiography

“Turn the Bible into prayer.  Thus, if you were reading the First Psalm, spread the Bible on the chair before you, and kneel and pray, ‘O Lord, give me the blessedness of this man’; ‘let me not stand in the counsel of the ungodly.’  This is the best way of knowing the meaning of the Bible and of learning to pray.”  (Robert Murray M’Cheyne)

“Prayer may turn reading into seeing.”  (J. Piper)

iv.             Ten Recommendations for the Practice of Prayerful Meditation on Scripture

1.     Set aside sufficient time so that you can be unhurried in your reading.

The difference between formative and informative reading –

Informative reading is reading to understand concepts.  Formative is not just information, it is concerned with having the words that we are reading shape us.

2.     Seek for consistency in daily time and place.  

3.     Be somewhat systematic.  Have some plan but make sure your plan is serving God’s intention not tyrannizing it.

4.     Position yourself for the benefit of “cross-fertilization.”

Read different sections of scripture so that you can hear the whole counsel of God.  Stay away from limiting yourself to only a few biblical authors that you prefer.  Remember that there is one Author and we must read all that He wrote.

5.     “Adopt practical ways to impede mental drift.”  (cf . D. A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, pp.20-22)

-        Diffuse extraneous thoughts by just jotting them down and then moving on.

-        Pray and think out loud.  Speech helps us concentrate.

6.     Allow God’s Word to lead you into prayer.

7.     Allow God’s Word to guide you in prayer

It may help to cultivate some “Scripture paths”— a few favorite places you regularly go.

e.g. – Psalm 139-Psalm 73-Romans 5:8, Romans 8:32

8.     Memorize Scripture

  This both is meditation and fosters future meditation.

9.     Read books that stir your affections for God’s Word and thereby stir your will to read God’s Word.

10.  After a particular week has passed, look back and recount what took place with reference to the practice of this discipline.  Assess what actually happened and make adjustments where necessary.

Don’t do this to feel bad about the past, but to look forward to the future.

Happy prayerful reading!

Pastor Jeff

 

When a neighbor loses their baby

Last Monday, a friend of mine told me about a former co-worker of his who had just moved into our neighborhood.  This individual had about as hard a past as you can imagine.  However, some recent joy had come into her life.  She was pregnant with her first child.  Yet, the reason that my friend contacted me was because this woman had just called him and told him that she was in the hospital and that her son had been delivered stillborn.  To go from anticipated joy to heart wrenching loss is one of the greatest tragedies that can be experienced.   My friend reached out to me to see if there was anything that our church could do for her as she went through this devastating time.  

I called this woman to ask what would help.  She said she couldn’t even think and had no idea how to process coming home.  She said that if she could somehow be provided with a few meals, that would at least help her to not have to try to cook or shop.  I told her that I’d see what we could do.

I sent out an email to Christ Church and within 4 hours we had meals set up for her for the next two weeks.  Multiple people reached out to me to ask what else they could do.  Prayers were written and sent for me to pass along.  As people started dropping off their meals for this woman, she started sending me text messages of her overwhelming gratefulness.

“I just got my first meal and it was amazing.  I really can’t think you all enough.”

“You have no idea how all these people are filling my heart”

“I have never known love like this and this is coming from people that I don’t even know”

“In my darkness Christ Church is being a light.  This is about more than meals. I am making friends with people that I think will last for a long time.”

Glory be to God!  Christ Church, this is just one of many examples of how you desire to put your faith into action.  I am so blessed to see the grace of God that is so richly upon you.  This is all because of Jesus.  He has changed your hearts. He has made you new.  And through his love you’ve been transformed to be lights of his love to others.  I worship Him for how I see Him at work through you.  This is what Jesus meant when he said, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Mat 5:16 ESV)

Amen.

Pastor Jeff



 

Whose words are you listening to?

How do you respond to when people speak against you?  What do you do when your name is slandered?

One of things that we saw in Nehemiah 6 this past Sunday was that when we weakened by the words of other people, we need to remember that it is God's words that really matter.  We don’t combat slander by just trying to clear our name.   No, we remember that what God says is more true than what anyone else says.  If you have placed your faith in Jesus, then you need to KNOW what God says about you:

 he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Phi 1:6 ESV)

For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants (Deu 32:36 ESV)

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God and so we are (1Jo 3:1 ESV)

I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty. (2Co 6:18 ESV)

I have loved you with an everlasting love (Jer 31:3 ESV)

as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you (Isa 62:5 ESV)

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zep 3:17 ESV)

The beloved of the LORD dwells in safety. The High God surrounds him all day long(Deu 33:12 ESV)

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom 8:31-32 ESV)

you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" (Rom 8:15 ESV)

he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."  So we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?" (Heb 13:5-6 ESV)

Cry out with the Psalmists, "strengthen me according to your word! (Psa 119:28 ESV)

Story Saturday: Furness Fruit

You might have remembered me sharing a story about a year ago about how we had been asked by our local public high school to come do a Bible study once a week during their lunch period.  Caleb and Jessie McCurley have been heading that up for about a year now and there are anywhere from 6-12 students that come on a regular basis.  Almost all of these teens are not Christians nor from Christian households.  This is literally the first time that they are hearing about Jesus.

This past Sunday, several of the families of the teens decided that they wanted to come check out our church.  And so, many of the new faces you saw this past Sunday, were those who have been reached by our ministry at Furness.  The Principal even made a brief appearance.  The feedback I received was amazing.  They felt warmly welcome by you all and were amazed at the joy they saw in people both through our singing and response to the preaching of God’s word.  By God’s grace, a deep impression was definitely made.  

I still shake my head in wonder that we get the opportunity to do this Bible study at Furness.  Please continue to keep this ministry, the youth of Furness and the McCurleys as they lead, in your prayers.  We are seeing fruit happen in front of our eyes.  May new spiritual family trees be affected for generations by the work that is going on in these young people’s hearts.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jeff

You can connect with me:

On twitter:  @Pastor_Jeff

On Facebook: Jeff Boettcher

Why are their different languages on the screen?

Dear Christ Church,

You have probably noticed these past few weeks that there have been Spanish and Arabic translations on our church projector screen during the sermon.  When we first started doing this, I spoke about why we have taken this action.  However, since it has been a little bit, I want to speak to it again so that we might be clear and encouraged.

In Revelation 7 we are given a vision of the church as it exists in heaven.  John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes,

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" (Rev 7:9-10 ESV)

Heaven is full of different languages and different people who are all brought together by a common song about Jesus.  Lest we think that this is an ideal for heaven, but not something that we can experience on earth, let’s not forget the words Jesus spoke when he taught us to pray,

Pray then like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Mat 6:9-10 ESV)

It is God's desire that the praise that exists in heaven would be brought to earth.  God wants all kinds of different people with all kinds of differences from one another, joining together and singing his praise as a unique testimony of the unifying power of Christ.

We have people in our church for whom English is not their first language.  Now, they are seeking to learn the English language, so that they can operate in this country with greater ease.  However, when they read their Bibles, or pray to God, they do so in their native tongue, with which they are most familiar.  So by translating the various scriptures that get read on a Sunday, as well as the points of the sermon, we are seeking to love and serve our brothers and sisters.  I also hope it is a fresh reminder to us that God does not only speak English, but that He is to be praised in every tongue.

I’m incredibly encouraged that we have the need to provide translation.  It is an evidence of the power of the gospel in our midst.

Let’s pray for more!

See you around the neighborhood,

Pastor Jeff

You can connect with me:

On twitter:  @Pastor_Jeff

On Facebook: Jeff Boettcher

Story Saturday: When An Atheist invites a Muslim to Your Church

Two weeks ago, I got a call from a good friend of mine who told me that he had just invited out someone to Christ Church.  Nothing too out of the ordinary right? Well, this friend happens to be an atheist who hates the idea of God.  The person he invited out to our church was a Muslim who had never met a Christian before.  My question was; what in the world is an atheist doing inviting a Muslim to a Christian church?  His reply was that this Muslim was a good friend of his who was going through a really hard time and he didn’t know how to bring encouragement or help.  He said that while he disagrees with what we believe, he can’t deny the love that he feels when he visits and he wanted his friend to be able to experience that.  After picking my jaw up off the floor, I told him that I’d love to meet this person.

One of the things that fascinates me as I read the gospels is how Jesus is uncompromising about truth and yet unrelenting with his love.  He calls out sin for what it is and he is very clear about who He is and that salvation is only found in him.  Yet,  while this truth is clear, his love is also clear.  And so even though sinners were being called out, they still wanted to spend time with him.  

Christ Church, by God’s grace, this is the reputation that we have.  People hear truth when they come, but they experience love.  And so the truth doesn’t drive away, but actually draws them in.  My prayer is that this is what people would always experience from us.   Even if they don’t believe like we do, I pray that they would feel loved and valued.  I hope that we have a lot more atheist and Muslims come out to our church, so that by God’s grace these friends can become family through responding in faith to the gospel of Jesus.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jeff

You can connect with me:

On twitter:  @Pastor_Jeff

On Facebook: Jeff Boettcher


 

Two Questions to Ask

Dear Christ Church,

Almost every Sunday night my parents would lead our family in a time of prayer and discussion about our church service that day.  There were definitely plenty of eye rolls from us kids.  However, there were two questions that they would always ask which I have never forgotten, and have shaped how I approach every Sunday gathering to this day.

They would ask:  Who did you meet that was new?  What did you do to serve?

Those weren’t random questions.  My parents were trying to instill something in us.  They were trying to teach us that the best life comes when your life isn’t about you.  It is so easy to come into a Sunday service only thinking about what we hope to get out of it.  There is certainly nothing wrong with wanting to experience God and be built up personally.  However, God wants something more for us than that.  Not only does he want to meet us, he wants to use us.  If we are only coming to the Sunday service with ourselves in mind, then we are missing out on a bigger reason (and greater joy) that God has for us.  We are missing out on how God wants to use us in other’s lives.

Who did you meet that was new?

We don’t have a greeting team at Christ Church and that is a very intentional choice.  I don’t want a new person to be greeted by someone because it is that person’s “obligation” that week.  Every member of Christ Church should view themselves as greeters.  It’s been studied that people make a decision within 5 minutes of walking into a church whether is is a place they will return to or not.  At the end of a service people make a decision within 2 minutes whether they will stay to connect with people or leave, because they aren’t being engaged.  I’m so grateful that the comment I get again and again from visitors is how welcomed they felt.  However, the more we grow the harder this will be.  It will become easier and easier to just greet our friends and talk to the people that we want to catch up with.  So ask yourself on your way over to church; who can you meet that is new?  Ask your kids this question too.  Start training them now.  In our culture teens don’t engage anyone, but only think about themselves.  It can be a tremendous testimony to see teens interacting with adults and younger children, as well as reaching out to other teens who are new.  

What did you do to serve?

Most of our members serve on some kind of ministry team.  We are incredibly blessed to have a church that takes serving as an act of worship to God.  But there are always unexpected things that can come up.  Spills happen, moms with strollers need help opening doors, trash is left out, someone needs some prayer or a word of encouragement, extra chairs need to be set up, some chairs need to be taken down.  I remember a Sunday where I blew out of church and ran off to play with my friends.  When my Dad asked what we had done to serve that day, I had no answer.  He asked me why.  I told him that no one had asked me to do anything.  I’ll never forget his response, “Isn’t it good that Jesus didn’t wait to be asked?”  As followers of Jesus, we don’t wait to be asked and just check off the little box that we’ve been assigned.  No, we are to follow the example of Christ, who defined himself as a servant who came to look out for the interest of others.

So Christ Church:  Who can you meet that is new?  Who can you serve?

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jeff

You can connect with me:

On twitter:  @Pastor_Jeff

On Facebook: Jeff Boettcher

Story Saturday- United for Jesus

Dear Christ Church,

For the past several months I've been meeting with a group of church leaders from around the city.  We have been thinking and praying about how we can celebrate together the awesome work that God is doing all over Philadelphia.  This past Thursday our efforts came to fruition as we gathered 100 different people from 20+ different networks, denominations and groups at XinfityLive!  We had some great food, heard from some church planters (I was on that panel) and had an inspiring message from one of our city's spiritual giants, Reverend Herb Lusk II.  There was a lot of laughter, fun and connection.  We ended our time by praying over church planters.  This was just the first on a year long series of events called The Tour.  We are taking a tour around different sections of Philly seeking to shine a spotlight on what God is doing in the varies areas of our city.  

Reverend Lusk, who has been ministering in the same church in Philadelphia for over 40 years, started his talk by saying, "I don't think I have ever heard of a more important meeting than what is taking place here today."   It was a powerful statement coming from a man of his experience.  I'm not sure if that is true or not, but you could feel heaven smiling upon what was taking place.  No one was there touting their tribe or specific brand of Christianity.  We were all there united by the simple cause of Christ.  It was truly beautiful.

Thank you to all who support Christ Church.  Because of your faithful giving we were able to participate in helping to financially support The Tour and allow me to be part of the planning team.  We are a small church, but God is showing His favor upon us and allowing us to be used in influential ways in our city.  It's really amazing to watch Him work.

If you want to check out more about The Tour, go to the website at www.thetourphilly.org

See you around the neighborhood,

Pastor Jeff

You can connect with me:

On twitter:  @Pastor_Jeff

On Facebook: Jeff Boettcher

What's Your Plan- Part 3

This is the final post in my mini series on how to make plans so that you can join God on his mission.  The word “planning” might freak some people out.  But don’t be intimidated.  Planning is not about being super structured, but rather learning how to be thoughtful and intention in pursuing God’s mission.  If you haven’t read part 1 or part 2 of this series, I’d encourage you to do so before reading below.  

Use tools

One of the things that makes humans human, besides the whole “made in God’s image” thing, is that we are tool users.  If scientists find a chimp that picks up a hammer and hits a nail 1 out of thousand times, they go nuts.  But my son Judah, when he was only two years old, knew how to drag a stool over to the pantry, pick up a broom, and reach the highest shelf to knock down his snack bars.  Humans are natural tool users.  Yet, for some, when it comes to planning we totally forget this.  All of a sudden we think we have to keep everything in our heads.

On the other end of the spectrum is the person who uses so many tools to keep themselves organized that they spend all their time being “organized” and don’t actually get anything done.  The key here is to have a few simple things that allow you to put your plan into action.  I personally use two tools:  Google calendar and a project based to-list.

A. Google calendar

If you want to work out a plan then it is crucial that you don’t just know what, but also when.  Not much of significance can be done apart from being scheduled.  Certainly schedules can be interrupted (anyone who was with us for the first year of our church plant can certainly attest to that).  However, while a schedule can be interrupted, that does not mean that there is no value to having one.  Having a schedule allows us to choose our own priorities, rather than having them dictated to us.  A carefully constructed calendar is what turns you from just being busy (taking a bunch of steps in a bunch of different directions) to being purposeful (consistently moving in one direction).  

Just as one example of what this looks like, Angie and I sit down every month and plan out what we hope to accomplish that month.  We plan out a rough idea of when we will do different “steps” that take us further on the path towards the end that we feel God has called us to.  We then meet on a weekly basis to fill in those details fully for the coming week.  We also do some big picture stuff for the year.

The great thing about google calendar is that you can have multiple calendars for various things.  I have my church calendar, family calendar, Sovereign Grace Churches calendar, neighborhood calendar and Eagles calendar (yup) all loaded in.  I can choose to only look at one at a time or all at the same time depending upon what it is that I’m trying to schedule.  Also, Angie has access to the same calendar and if either of us make any changes the other sees it immediately.  This has almost eliminated our double booking ourselves (apart from human error, which we definitely still have).  

Having a calendar also helps us be realistic about what we can do and not feel bad about what we can’t.  The reality is that there is only so much time in each day and only so many days in each week.  God is unlimited and unbound by time and having a schedule is a good way to remind ourselves that we are not Him.  Our schedules let us see what we realistically have time to do and they are a great tool to look back on and see how well we are doing in pursuing what God has put in our hearts to do.  Calendars let us look back and see where we’ve been spending our time, which gives us the opportunity to course correct as we then look ahead and make our plans.  To rephrase a popular saying from Ben Franklin, if you don’t schedule your plan, then you have scheduled to fail.

I’ve heard it said that living by a calendar can stifle creativity.  However, John Alan Lassitar (Chief Creative Director at Pixar) would disagree.  He uses his schedule to make sure that he has time for free space to think creatively.  Without a schedule he always feels like he is missing something and it is harder for him to think creatively.  But when he is operating with a schedule, he knows that he doesn’t have to think about certain things, because it isn’t time to do so and therefore he is free to be as creative as possible.  This disciplined pursuit of free space then allows him to be spontaneously creative throughout the rest of the day.

B.  Project based to do list

As we come to the end we finally are going to talk about lists.  Some people love lists, some people hate lists.  The unavoidable reality is that if you want to make plans, you need to make lists.  Lists are what move plans into more than just plans, but actual execution.  As you break down each goal into manageable steps, put each step on a list and then systematically work through that list.  

1.  Keep all your lists in one place

You have probably heard of split personality disorder.  I think there is also a disorder called split list disorder.  This is when someone has lists all over their house, car, room and desk.  These lists don’t know each other, have nothing to do with each other and you never know when one might be in prominence.  It is complete chaos.  A good system for lists is when they are all in one place and so you can look at what you have to do at any given moment and be freed from having to remember anything (praise God for reminders!).  My Mom was old school and always kept her list in the back of her daytimer.  I’m not sure if they even make those anymore.  I’ve used several apps over the years and have found todoist and meistertask to be my favorite with meistertask having the edge if you need to collaborate with other people.

2.  Don’t just list tasks, but list groups of tasks

If you look at a to do list and there are 30 tasks on it, I don’t know about you, but I’m giving up and just going back to sleep.  I think it is helpful to have all your tasks listed under bigger header groups.  For example, I usually have anywhere from 5-7 big groups of things that I am trying to get done on a weekly basis (Family, Sermon prep,  Pastoral Care, Leadership Development, etc…)Each of these are “projects” that have multiple tasks under them.  The beauty of this is that i don’t have to think about “What am I supposed to do here?”  I already thought about that in my yearly, monthly and weekly planning time.  As I go through my week, I just have to execute each task on my list.  As I do that eventually big projects get done.    

3.  Everything goes on a list

We only have so much mental capacity.  We can only remember so much.  We can only think about a certain number of things at any given time.  It takes mental space to make plans and seek to live an intentional life.  There is no way we will have the space to access that if we always have all these different things floating around in our heads.  My rule is that if it isn’t written down, then it doesn’t exist.  Everything I plan for has to go on a list or it will never get done.

Conclusion:

If you read all this and just feel completely overwhelmed, let me give you some encouragement.  First, praise God for the strengths He has given you!  People who naturally like to plan need people like you in their lives just so that we remember how to have fun.  The world would be a terrible place if everyone’s natural strength was planning.

Second, be willing to work on your weakness.  I need to work on being ok when things don’t go according to my plan.  That’s my weakness.  If your weakness is thinking that you don’t need to plan, let me encourage you to consider working on that as well.  We can either turn a blind eye to our weakness and never grow, or we can humbly acknowledge that there are things in our life that make us very aware of our dependence on God and we can press into those things and experience God’s transformative work.  If planning isn’t a strength for you, don’t be discouraged.  Press in.  And consider getting some help.  Find someone (family or friend) that you can reach out to for whom this is a strength and see what you might be able to pick up from them.  God promises to give grace to the humble and seeking to grow is a sure sign of humility.

Ok, that will do it.  

See you around the neighborhood!

Pastor Jeff

If you want to connect with me:

On twitter:  @Pastor_Jeff

On Facebook: Jeff Boettcher

 

Story Saturday- Hunger for God

Dear Christ Church,

This past week we cancelled all our small groups and pulled everyone together for a night of prayer and praise.  Some small groups were better represented then others, but every group had someone that was there.  I get so excited as I think about what God will do through us taking some time to slow down and pray.  We can have all the plans and strategy that we want, but we can't manufacture a move of God.  And so we need to hunger for the presence of our Lord and for Him to come and do the great things that only He can do.  

If you weren't able to make it out, here's the outline of what we prayed for:

Praise

  1. We Sing
  2. Come Praise and Glorify

Prayers of Praise

  1. Salvations that we have seen in the past few months
  2. Remission of cancer for someone that our church has been praying for
  3. People experiencing community and life change like never before

Pray for “Making Disciples” (groups of 6-8)

  1. People in our sphere (Neighbors, co-workers, family)
  2. Our addictions ministry
  3. Our thanksgiving Dinner outreach
  4. Furness bible study
  5. Next generation (Children and youth in our church)

Praise

1.  Let Your Kingdom Come

Pray for “Maturing Disciples” category 7:45-8pm

  1. Church events
    1.  Digging deeper classes
    2.  Small groups
    3.  Sunday service
  2. Church staff members
    1.  Brittanie Demeno- Admin support
    2.  Ashley Magitz- Admin support
    3.  Kristen Catoe- Social Media
    4.  Melissa Fehlinger- Graphics
    5.  Jessica Slingerland- Supplies
    6.   Elise Neumann-Logistics
    7.  Jessie McCurley- Accounting
  3.  Pray for people in their various seasons of life:
    1. Married couples
    2. Parents
    3. Singles
  4.  Pray for our pastoral interns (Joe Catoe and his wife Kristen, Caleb McCurley and his wife Jessie), pastor in training (Steve Crowell and his wife Megan) and lead pastor (Jeff Boettcher and his wife Angie)
  5. Pray for greater ethnic and racial diversity in our church

Pray for “Multiplying Disciples” 

  1. Unity amongst churches in the city
  2. Pray for churches that are friends of our church:
    1.  Citylife (Brad and Leah Leach)
    2.  Grace and Peace (Jonathan and Rachel Olsen)
    3. Liberti Church East (Steve and Christne Huber)
    4.  Synder Ave Congregation church (Dave and Lisa Grainge)
  3. Pray for churches that are family to our church
    1.  Grace City Northeast (Rob and Stephanie Chisholm)
    2.  Grace City Frankford (Stephen and Abby Bowne)
    3.  Grace City Wissonoming (Dan and Jodi Birkholtz),
    4.  Covenant Community (Ian and Rachel McConnel)
  4. God to raise up more pastors in our church so that more members can be equipped for ministry
  5. Pray that God would give us an opportunity to church plant
  6. Pray that God would provide for us financially so that we can keep moving forward in mission

Praise

1.  Great is Thy Faithfulness

See you around the neighborhood!

Pastor Jeff

Connect with me:

On twitter:  @Pastor_Jeff

On Facebook: Jeff Boettcher

What's Your Plan? Part 2

In my last post I discussed the importance of having one big goal for your life which is vital if you want to make plans for your life.  You can’t make a plan if you don’t know where you want to go.  You can call this a personal mission statement, life goal, purpose, whatever, the point is that we see people all throughout scripture who have a very specific vision for what God had called them to do on earth.  We need to have a purpose if we want to make a plan.

Once you have the big goal, though, what do you do in order to make plans to work it out?  

Determine your steps

If you have an end in mind then what are the steps that you need to take in order to pursue it?  We all only have so many “steps” that we can take in our life.  Eventually our step count will max out and the Lord will take us home.  So imagine that two people each have 20 steps.  One person takes one step in 20 different directions and the other person takes 20 steps in 1 direction.  Who went further over the course of their life?  Obviously, the person who went in one direction.  The key to effective planning is not about trying to get more things done, but rather getting the right things done.  

Again this is why it is important to begin with the end in mind.  We need to know the direction that our steps are to go in, so that we can determine what our priorities should be.  Make no mistake, if we don’t determine our priorities, someone else will.

So break down your big goal into yearly, quarterly and monthly goals and think of those as steps.  Angie and I both take personal retreats every year where we create space to be alone with God, pray, reflect and plan out goals for the year.  I highly recommend getting some time to get away, get quiet and listen to God.  Change of place and change of pace bring a change of perspective.  So take time and map out what God puts on your heart.  Write your thoughts down, because if something just exists in your mind then it doesn’t exist in the real world yet.  Make your steps tangible and put them on a piece of paper (or in an app-we’ll talk more about that later).

The other benefit of determining your steps is that it give you the freedom to say no.  If we just say yes to every opportunity we’ll be like that person who takes 20 steps in 20 different directions.  We need to know how to say no and be ok with that.  Now we shouldn’t say “no” just to serve our own selfishness.  Saying no to one thing should be done so that you can say yes to the right thing.   

Let me give you an example of this.  I was recently presented with two different opportunities.  One was to be the President of my neighborhood association.  The other was to be a coach for a church planting group outside of Sovereign Grace (my family of churches). I had three options (side note, studies have shown that the best decisions are made when you are able to come up with three options, because it allows for more analytical thinking). I could say no to both, yes to all, or yes to one.   After thinking about my current roles, goals and schedule I knew that I could not say yes to both, but I could probably say yes to one.  Both options were equally exciting to me.  I love my neighborhood and want to do whatever I can to contribute to its thriving.  Plus it would be a great opportunity to connect with more neighbors and hopefully have opportunities to have spiritual conversations.  On the other hand, I am passionate about church planting, enjoy the act of coaching and would love to be more intentional about investing in future planters.  I  prayed and I sought counsel from wise people who know me well.  What I was seeking to discern was what would take me one step further in the direction of what I want to pursue with my life.  You see, both were good options, but a good option does not mean it is the right option.  If you remember from the first blog post, I feel called to see another percentage of Philadelphians come to know, love and serve Jesus in my lifetime.  So which of these opportunities was a step in that direction?  While I love church planting, ultimately that opportunity was not focused on this city and so I turned it down and went with being the President of my neighborhood association.  Time will tell if that was the right choice, but regardless of the outcome, I feel at peace because I think I made that choice in the right way.  It was an intentional step.  

Create rhythms to your life

I’ve seen people shoot themselves in the foot by thinking that planning means just writing more things down and learning to live off a list.  What this fails to account for is that we are, as the great human observer Shakespeare said, “creatures of habit.”  Study after study has shown that we operate best when we have routines, not necessarily lists.  Lists are important (we’ll talk about that when I discss tools), but before you make lists you need to establish some kind of general rhythm for your life.  If you don’t take this step you will just feel overwhelmed by your lists and not be able to actually make good on your plans.

So, the question that should be asked is, ‘What rhythms do I need to have in place in order to pursue the end that God has placed on my heart?”

This will be different for each individual.  For example one of my rhythms is that I need to work on my sermon early in the week and keep my calendar clear and then fill my calendar up towards the end of the week.  If I don’t get to my sermon early in the week, I feel stressed and my whole work (and home) life suffers.  But if I get a good bit of that done, then I feel relaxed and able to take my time dealing with other things.  My Dad has the exact opposite rhythm.  He can’t start working on his sermon until he feels under the gun.  It is hard for him to focus without feeling some sense of pressure. So he does most of his busy work in the beginning of the week and saves his sermon prep for the end.  

Those are examples from a work environment, but the same thing applies to our home life.  So for Angie and I we know that if we are going to see another percentage of Philadelphians come to know, love and serve Jesus in our lifetime then we have to get to know a lot of people.  So we have a rhythm to our week about connecting with others.   Angie and I don’t like to plan things in the beginning of the week, but keep that open so that we can connect together, but then we know that generally we will have something going on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  We don’t have to plan whether or not we will do something those nights. We know we will.  It is our rhythm.  We just have to fill in the details of who is coming over or where we are going.  

Good planning involves some thinking on the front end, but ultimately should result in you having to think less as you go through life.  How many times have you gotten in your car on your way to work, home, or some kind of destination that you routinely go to and when you get there you realize that you don’t even remember making the trip?  We have a high capacity to live on auto pilot.  This can be a bad thing if we have the wrong routines in place, or a really powerful thing if we are intentional about training ourselves to have the right rhythms.  

So how can you create rhythms?  What are things that just need to be automatic in your life?

Any plan about how to do this that doesn’t involve creating a rhythm of prayer and Bible study will never deliver you to the end of glorifying God.  So if you don’t already have a rhythm of personal time with the Lord, start there.

As we create rhythms it is crucial that we do not allow those rhythms to make us slaves. Some people can become so attached to their routines that they miss out on the spontaneous opportunities that God gives to love and serve others (See the Priest and Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 15).  We need to have rhythms, but we need to be flexible with those rhythms and give God space to use us in unplanned moments.  If we are unwilling to do that, then our rhythms have become our gods and we have fallen into idolatry.

Ok, that’s all for now…  Next up:  How to use tools to work out your plan

See you around the neighborhood,

Pastor Jeff

Connect with me:

On twitter:  @Pastor_Jeff

On Facebook: Jeff Boettcher

Story Saturday- An Intern's Experience

As my summer internship reaches an end, I've been meditating on the different things I've learned this summer and the things that I'll be taking with me for my future ministry. I've seen and come to appreciate many things in the community that makes up the people of Christ Church. Jeff asked me to write a blog post summarizing the various things that I've observed and learned from an outside perspective, both as an encouragement to you and as a different perspective on things you may be unable to see because you’re in the thick of it.

People

I've come to love and appreciate many of the individual people that make up this church. People are not part of a church, they are the church. I see this attitude modeled by the individuals of Christ Church. One of the great issues of the German church is an unwillingness to get involved in the church life and a perspective on church that church is simply something that you attend. A place to go on Sunday morning as opposed to a living and dynamic community of believers to love and serve with your spiritual gifts. While I'm sure there may be room for improvement, as there always is, this is something I appreciate tremendously about this church. I always felt loved and welcomed by the people of the church and have formed some real friendships. Whether it was letting me practice my driving (I've been working on getting my American license this summer) or just spending a free evening over at someone's house I've enjoyed it tremendously!

The other main thing that has stood out to me is the power of biblical truth and doctrine to shape people's lives. The church in Germany often falls into a very doctrine-opposing attitude. Theology is almost a bad word because it conjures up images of arrogant men dividing churches and waging war over trivialities. I don't need to tell you this, but nothing could be further from the reality. The intensely personal and practical implications of the study of God for how we align our lives in relationship to him can hardly be overstated. I have tremendously enjoyed coming to know, and building relationships with, people whose personal aim in life is to bring glory and praise to God. God is the center of the universe, man is not. The power of the church is drained when this role is reversed and I praise God for the many individuals of Christ Church where this is not the case.

Leadership

I've gained a new respect for the amount of work that goes into running a church on the “back-end.” Jeff works hard every day and so do many volunteers that make everything that happens in this church possible. I appreciate the sacrifices made by Joe and his family that enable him to take care of much of the administration of the church. It's exemplary that Jeff chooses to pray for each individual in this church and has a burden to reach more people. A strong elder body is extremely important for the health of the church. Therefore I can only reinforce: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Heb. 13:17)

Church Life

One thing that stood out to me was the actual church events. I always found myself very much looking forward to church services and to small group. I often enter a church service in Germany wondering how much of the service I will be able to give a full “Amen” to, and how much will sadden me. Here it was wonderful to see that we sang songs that had God in the center and gave glory to him. I enjoyed the focus of the sermons on Christ and what HE has done. I loved the open and joyful atmosphere of small groups and the meaningful and deep discussion that accompanied it. Small group specifically was consistently one of my week's highlights.

Overall

Overall I have learned much this summer and am leaving America with a burden on my heart for the people and the churches of Germany. I believe God is not done with the country where the reformation began, no matter how liberal some churches become or how secular the society as a whole becomes. I encourage everyone in this church to appreciate what God has done and is doing in this church and in the lives of its individuals. Often we need to take a step back to get a full view of what God is doing and the blessing that we so often overlook or take for granted. This is something I've been privileged to have by coming into this church from the outside. We should praise the Lord for what he has done and press on to labor with all our might in what he will continue to do through this church!

God bless you!

Jimmy Beevers

What's Your Plan? part 1

Bill Gates had a vision to put a computer into every home and so he made a plan about how we would to pursue that vision.  Steve Jobs had a vision to change the way we use our phones and so he made a plan about how he would pursue that vision  We see things like this in the business world all the time.  Few are as successful as Gates or Jobs, but there are all kinds of people who have a vision for something and make plans to achieve their vision.  They don’t wait for “doors to open”.  They don’t rely on “feeling led in the moment.”  They make plans and get stuff done.  

Christians can have a hard time making plans.  We can feel like planning is somehow “unspiritual” and prefer to be “led by the Spirit”, which we think means just going through life spontaneously with no clear focus.  But go ahead and try to find a verse that says we shouldn’t plan.  Let me save you some time (feel free to check me though), that verse doesn’t exist.  Yet there are many verses that call us to make plans.  Eph 5:16 commands us to “make the best use” of our time, Proverbs promises that “the plans of the diligent surely lead to abundance” and the wise man is commended for making plans.  Every day that God gives us is a gift from God that He wants us to use to maximize the good that we can do in this world for him.  It is the lazy servant who took the talent the master had given him and made no plans about how to increase it, but buried it in the sand.  He is condemned for squandering what he had been given (Matthew 25:14-29),  It is a tragedy when businessmen like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs make better plans to sell goods than the people of God who have the only message of hope for this broken world.  Our vision of seeing people come from death to life through faith in Jesus should be too great in our hearts for us not to make a plan to get after joining God on His mission.  I couldn’t agree more with John Piper when he writes, “Aimless, unproductive Christians contradict the creative, purposeful, powerful, merciful God we love.”

How do we do this though?  How do we move from just feeling inspired to actually getting stuff done?  How do we go from good intentions to meaningful action?  

I am going to do a series of posts with some practical advice on how we can make plans to join God in His mission of building from brokenness.  Now, as a pastor, I can’t just jump right into practicals without making sure that it is clear that doing things for God must always be empowered by who we are in Christ.  God doesn’t love us based upon what we get done, but upon what Jesus has done.  In our efforts to spread the gospel it is vital that we don’t forget the gospel.  God loves us because we are united by faith to His son Jesus and therefore, God’s love is ever abounding, always forgiving, never diminishing and constantly faithful.  We must be secured in God’s love for us as we seek to share God’s love with others.  “A Christian is something before he does anything; and we have to be Christians before we can act like Christians.”- Martin Lloyd-Jones

One more quick thing before we get going.  I want to make sure that it is clear upfront that everything that I’m going to  write about planning is completely unoriginal.  I owe a lot of this to my Mom who is a master planner, Tim Wolf who taught me how to plan during a high school discipleship class and from reading broadly on this topic over the years.    Since I don’t think my Mom or Tim are teaching any seminars on this topic, let me recommend the books that I have found most helpful.

1. Do More Better by Tim Challies

Short and punchy.  It is written by a pastor with tons of very practical wisdom.

2.  What’s Best Next? by Matt Perlman

The best biblical case I’ve read about why being a productive planner matters so much for the Christian.  I think he gets a little bogged down in details sometimes, but overall, a very helpful read.

3.  7 Habits of Highly Effective Individuals by Stephen Covey

This book has sold well over 25 million copies for a reason.  It is a timeless classic written in a very accessible and practical manner.  This is a book that I think everyone should read in their lifetime.

4.  Essentialism by Greg McKeown

A question I commonly ask leaders is what are they currently reading that is really challenging them?  In the past two years from pastor to CEO, this is the book that I have heard most commonly recommended.  I have read it through three times and still gain something new from it each time.  

Ok, so with these things in mind, here are some suggestions about how we can make plans.

BEGIN WITH THE END

A common thing that motivational speakers will say is to think about what you want people to say at your funeral and then to give your life to achieving that eulogy.  As Christians, I don’t think we should think about our funeral.  I think we should think about the day when we appear before our Savior and he says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” What do we want God to say well done for on that day?

You see, we need more clarity than just “Glorifying God and enjoying him forever”.  God has made each one of us as unique individuals.  He has given us unique combinations of abilities, resources, experiences and opportunities that He wants us to use in a unique way to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.  Certainly there are general principles that apply to each one of us. We are all called to do justice and love mercy (Micah 6:8), care for the vulnerable (James 1:27), do good deeds to others (Matthew 5:16) and in all these things “whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Col 3:17 ESV) However, in scripture we see people living by more than just these general guiding principles.  From  Nehemiah who had “what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem.” (Neh 2:12 ESV) to Paul who said “I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation” (Rom 15:20 ESV), we see people throughout scripture with very clear “ends” in mind.  They knew what they had been given to do.  They knew what they wanted their lives to count for.  They had more than just an idea of wanting to “glorify” God.  While they were excited to get to heaven, they knew there was a reason that they were still on earth.  They shaped their whole life around that reason.

So why does God still have you on earth?  It must be for more than just glorifying Him.  You can do that in heaven.  What are ways that you can only glorify God on earth?  What’s something that is broken that you feel God has called you to join him in rebuilding?

A. Pray

We need to pray and ask God to show us.  He is not reluctant to do so, for he has prepared good works for us to walk in (Eph 2:10).  We don’t start to find our purpose by getting out into the world, but falling to our knees before the God of heaven.  If you have listened to our Nehemiah series we’ve already seen this repeatedly.  Nehemiah was a man of action, because he was a man of prayer.  Through his prayers, God put in his heart what He wanted Nehemiah to do (Nehemiah 2:12).  In order to plan we need to have purpose.  Purpose comes from prayer.

B. Feel

What burdens has God given you?  What do you seem to care about more than other people?  While there are certain things that we are all called to as Christians, God will give some of us greater burdens for particular things.  We can either use those burdens to feel self righteous towards those that don’t share them, or we can use those burdens to start making plans about how we want to go about what God has put on our heart.

C.  Think  

What are the abilities, resources and experiences that God has given you which you can use for Him?  From swinging a hammer to talking well, being business minded to artistically creative, God has made each one of us in such a way that we have unique things to contribute to His mission.  So think about your abilities (and ask others so that you have an honest picture).  What are you good at and how can you use that for the Lord?

D. Watch

We need to live with our eyes wide open.  Often the direction we are praying for is right in front of us, but we don’t see it because we aren’t watching.  What has God put in front of you?  Who has God put in front of you?  

We need to begin with the end in mind, because if we can find one big thing that will then inform how we plan the million of little things of our lives.  Martin Luther King, Jr had a dream to see people of all colors living in equality.  William Wilberforce had a vision of a world with no more slavery.  I have a desire to see one more percentage of Philadelphians come to know Jesus in my lifetime.  I know a very successful businessman who wanted to make enough money so that he could live on 5% of his income and use the other 95% to fund mission efforts in his church and community.  I have another friend who is a doctor and uses his skills and expertise to serve in a variety of ways in his church.  I know a man who is a janitor and who uses that position to make meaningful connections with kids who otherwise would get looked over in the system.  They are all very different people and they all have one common goal, using their lives to glorify God through reaching people who are far from God.  However, how they go about that goal is as different as they are.  When they get to the end, they will be commended for different things.  But by the grace of God, they will all be commended.

So what is your end?  Here’s another way to think about this: what is something that you can only do on earth that you can’t do in heaven?    

Now we might not ever achieve our end.  This is why it is crucial to have our identity built on Jesus, not on our achievements.  However, an identity built on Christ should never lead us to live an unintentional life.  If we value the life we have in Jesus, then we should want to spend that life for the glory of Jesus.  We can’t make plans about how to do that if we don’t have one big goal that we are seeking to pursue in our lives.

Check out part 2 coming soon, where I discuss figuring out priorities and using our habits for good.

See you around the neighborhood!

Pastor Jeff

Twitter @Pastor_Jeff

Facebook Jeff Boettcher

Story Saturday- It's good to be back!

Dear Christ Church,

As I was away for the last two weeks of August it was incredible to tour historic sections of Spain and Italy.  Let me tell you, those people know how to eat and how to build impressive church buildings.  However, as I came back this Sunday I was freshly struck at how grateful I am for who you are.  Our church is not about a building.  It is about you and how each one of you intentionally seeks to be a disciple of Jesus in the everyday rhythms of your life.

I went to Dickinson Square Park after our service and when I got there, I saw the Mattalianos  engaging with some neighbors.  I ran into one of the young boys that my family has been bringing to church for the past few weeks and my kids and I spent some time playing soccer with him.  The Sosas showed up and as I went over to talk with them Eric Neumann walked past.  We picked some honeysuckles and soon had kids lining up to be taught about how to get the sweet nectar out of the flower.  There were laughs, conversation and a few opportunities to talk about Jesus.  As I walked back home my thought simply was “It is so good to be back.”  I wouldn’t trade living here in this community for anything.  Where else can you walk out your front door and have multiple spontaneous opportunities for fellowship and evangelism?

We don’t have gilded gold doors on our building.  We don’t have priceless works of art lining our walls.  But we do have something those places don’t have.  They are impressive museums, but their mission has long died out.  We have people living on mission.  I’ll take people anytime.

It’s good to be back home with you!

See you around the neighborhood,

Pastor Jeff

Connect with me!

Twitter @Pastor_Jeff

Facebook Jeff Boettcher