Thursday, June 18, 2009

C.C.C. is Shining In Mt. Washington

Kathryn and I had lunch today at one of the sandwich shops in Mt. Washington.  The lady who waited on us commented kindly about the church.  "Your church building is beautiful!  Even my little girl said, 'Wow mommy, look at that church, it's pretty.'"  We thanked her and moved on through the line. 

After a couple of minutes she mentioned that she had visited our recent yard sale at Fisher Lane.  She commented that she had bought some of the baked goods and that they were very good.  She then said something that thrilled my heart. 

"I just want you to know that I'm really impressed by the unity of your church."  At first I wasn't sure just what she meant by that, however, she went on to elaborate further.

"Your church seems to be a real family – nor just on Sunday – but every day."

I'm still not sure specifically what she meant by her gracious comments, but this one thing I do know: People are watching.  They are looking for something deeper than the physical structure of a building.  The question they are likely asking is: Are the people inside the building real?   Is church making any real difference in their life?   And when they find that it is, they take notice.  So shine on Calvary, shine on.

Pastor Van 

Thursday, June 11, 2009

'Worship Wars' - Coming to a Church Near You? Let's Hope Not.

Worship Wars.  That sounds a bit harsh doesn't it?  I first heard the phrase nearly 20-years ago.  It was a phrase coined to describe the battle going on within congregations over music – praise choruses vs. hymns.  And for those over fifty, it appeared that the choruses were winning.

Over the past 15-years at C.C.C. I must admit that I've been far removed from the fray.  However, the sounds of warfare are within earshot.  Over the past two months I've talked with those over the phone or in person who are angry and weary from the fight.

"It's been 15-years since I've heard someone say 'Open your hymnbooks to page…I almost fell over when you all asked me to do so."  This was the reaction of one brother who visited us recently.   Another lady called and asked specifically about our music.  I could smell the smoke of battle.  "They're not even using the hymnbook anymore," she said.   Apparently for some worship leaders the battle lines have been drawn – and there's no compromise.

Now trust me, I don't live in la la land.  I'm sure there are those in our congregation who would perhaps prefer all praise choruses as well as others who would like all hymns.  But at least so far no one has drawn up any battle plans or launched any hand-grenades. 

I remember an incident nearly 13-years ago in our fellowship hall at the Fisher Lane location.  We had learned "Ancient of Days", a chorus that was a bit different for us at the time.  During one of our informal get-togethers, one dear lady decided that I needed to know that she didn't like that song.  I remember quite well what I told her:  "That's what I like about you (name withheld for the sake of my health), even though you don't like it, you're not insisting that we stop doing songs like that because you're aware there are others who do like them."  And not another shot was fired. 

I'm in an unusual position.  In addition to preaching I also lead the music at C.C.C., which means I'm responsible for song selection.   Being 53-years of age does have its advantages.  I feel that I, at least somewhat, have my feet planted in both camps.  I love well written praise choruses.  When we sing "Jesus Messiah" by Chris Thomlin joyful worship is expressed.  I love hymns as well.  How can you beat rich hymns such as "Fairest Lord Jesus" and "It Is Well With My Soul"?  I feel the church must have them both.  And this exactly what we try to do – as imperfect as we are.

I am truly proud of our congregation.  When they sing the hymn "We Have Come To Join In Worship" they mean just that – they join in, instead of waging war.  Perhaps it's because for them the unity of the fellowship, as well as sincere worship in spirit and in truth, (Whether it's a hymn or chorus) is ultimately more important than their own musical preference.   It's a pleasure to join in worship with people like that.

Pastor Van



Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Good Movie and Glimmers of The Gospel

I'd like to recommend a movie.  Now I realize this can be dangerous since many movies, PG and PG-13, have some profanity, however, there is nothing particularly over the top in this movie.

The movie I'm speaking of is "Taken", starring Liam Nieson.  He plays the father of a 17-year-old girl who must have his permission to go on vacation in Paris.  She lies to him, telling him she is just going to be 'visiting museum's and stuff', and that her and her cousin will be staying with adults.  However, she knows that museums are not on the schedule.  They are actually going to following U-2 on their European tour.

Her father reluctantly grants his permission, even though he discovers that she has lied to him.  Then ironically, upon arrival in Paris, the daughter discovers that her cousin has lied to her, for the adults they were supposed to stay with are actually on vacation.  The liar has been lied too!  (Oh yes, this is one you should watch with your teenager.)

Things go bad quickly.  Both teenage girls are abducted by a group of Albanians who sell girls into prostitution.  Get ready for your outrage to build as you realize that this sort of thing is actually taking place in the world, (just Google; "Human Trafficking" or "Teen Prostitution").

The father goes to every extreme to rescue his daughter and ultimately succeeds.  At the end of the movie there is moving scene where the daughter is rescued by her father, and she clings to him, weeping, saying, "You came for me."  It's a moving scene.  You see, up until this point the daughter has kept her father at a distance, only reaching out to him when she needed something.  However, the rescue changes her.  She now clings to him.

Isn't this a picture of the amazing grace of God?  We keep Him at a distance, only acknowledging Him when we need something.  But when we are made to see just how enslaved we really are to sin, and that we cannot rescue ourselves; when the greatness of the Gospel of Christ finally gets through too us, we are changed.  Christ's extreme rescue wins our heart and we receive Him.  We cling to Him.  And we say, "You came for me."

Now watch the movie, and look for glimmers of the Gospel.

Pastor Van

Our First Service In The New Building

Our first service in our new building was this past Sunday (May 31st, 09'), and my, my, it was an outstanding day!  In addition to it being beautiful weather outside, the presence of the Lord was beautiful inside.   As we sang 'Holy, Holy, Holy' I could see the look on people's face, many weeping for joy, many smiling with delight.  It was a great day.

We even had to set out chairs out in order to seat everyone who attended.  We estimated, conservatively, our attendance to be at least 450.  Many in our church family invited their family and friends to come and worship with them on our special day.  It was so very kind of them to come and celebrate with us.

There were some personal challenges for me, getting used to all the new – the new building, the platform heighth, the new microphone (it's called a countryman.  It reminds me of something Garth Brooks would wear!), the acoustics, all of this was a bit un-nerving.  After all, I've been used to the old building now for 15-years.  I guess I had gotten rather comfortable.

Now we move on to the "dedication service" this next Sunday.  I'm expecting another great day with God's people.  I hope you'll be there!

Pastor Van