Plotting an Advent Conspiracy

By Rob McClelland

Whether your family is still in your house from the Thanksgiving holiday or you still find yourself in a tryptophan induced funk, Thanksgiving is over and so begins the official start to the Christmas season.  (Costco has been selling Christmas ornaments since mid-August, I think.)

The Christmas season is one where many reconnect with friends and family.  It is also the season where we busy ourselves with shopping, baking, hosting, and attending.  We talk about all of our many blessings that have happened throughout the year.  We also talk about the stress of preparing, shopping, planning, hosting, baking, and attending.  We write Christmas cards to family and friends, relaying the highlights from the year gone by.  We also write checks, sign credit receipts, and wonder if we will be able to get everything done that needs to be done before Christmas.

Isn’t it sad that the Christmas season has become one characterized by hyper-stress, hyper-consumerism, shopping stampedes, Black Friday blitzes, and debt.  Even local radio station ads are offering money to people to help pay off last year’s credit card bills, so they can be filled up again this Christmas.  This breaks my heart.  Christmas was never meant to look like this.

It is helpful for me to pause at the beginning of the holidays, to consider prayerfully what’s really important, and to decide which Christmas narrative I want to participate in this year: a narrative of over-consumption or the foundational narrative of the Church, which can be summed up in four words: “…and God draws near.”  I believe that is our founding story, the pattern of Scripture, and the arc of human history.

Last month, in preparation for the Advent season, I laid out our plan for Advent 2017.  It was a BIG plan, which included impacting our local community in a major way.  We are setting the goal of $25,000 this Advent to be used to help those within our local community who are down on their luck, along with those local ministries we are partnered with – like Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Lago Vista Neighbor, and Room4Hope.  

Even though that is a BIG plan, the harder part is committing ourselves to participate in the Conspiracy – to Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All.  If we, as a church family, can commit to those things, we might see Christmas become a scandalous, world-changing event once again.  

So, here’s the challenge: Will you commit to making the next four weeks about plotting a Conspiracy?  Will you commit to preparing your heart through worship to be ready for God to impact your life in a major way?  Will you commit to spend less money on the consumeristic side of Christmas, saving that money or using it for the good of those less fortunate within our community?  Will you commit to give more gifts of presence – making gifts which are thoughtful, meaningful, which give of your most valuable commodity…your time?  And will you commit to love others within our community by giving generously to this Conspiracy?

Each one of these tenets of the Advent Conspiracy build on one another.  If you commit to worship fully, you will not want to spend as much on the cultural Christmas, but give more of yourself to others.  This will of course lead to more love being shared.
 

Join us this Advent in Plotting a Conspiracy!
If you would like to participate, you can do so in one of two ways:

1. Make a general donation during worship and write Advent Conspiracy on the memo line.

2. Contact me via email:    AdventConspiracyAtFaith@gmail.com with a request to be involved specifically, and we will work with you to get you specifically involved with helping a person, family, or ministry partner organization.

Take some time this Advent to prayerfully consider breaking the familiar ritual of the secular Christmas and bring new meaning to the Advent Season by worshipping fully, choosing to spend less money and give more relationally, to impact the lives of family and friends!

 

 

New Class: Where is the Hole? — Preparing for Lent

 

By Rob McClelland

I can’t believe that we are already heading into February of 2018!  This year is an interesting year in the life of the Church because Easter falls so early – April 1st.  That means that the season of Lent starts earlier too.  In fact, Ash Wednesday, which is the day Lent begins, falls on Valentine’s Day this year.

As such, we want to let you know today that we are inviting everyone here at Faith Church to join together in an all-church Lenten study of Richard Stearns’ book, The Hole in Our Gospel, which was voted the 2010 Christian Book of the Year.  Stearns is the President of World Vision here in the United States and was one of the keynote speakers this year at Group Publishing’s “Future of the Church Conference.”  I have read this book and it is spiritually challenging as well as encouraging.

In the four years I have been at Faith Church, we have never done an all-church Study.  But this is only for six (6) weeks, and you can do anything for six weeks, right?  This book explores such questions as, “What does God expect of us?”  This was the question that personally challenged Richard Stearns as God was calling him to become the new president of World Vision.  During Stearns’ journey with God in answering that question, he wrestled with God, was challenged to rethink what the Church was, and had to reconsider how he made even basic decisions about life.

My hope is that during this six-week study, we will all be challenged during the season of Lent in a new and life-changing way!  As we answer the question, “Where is the hole?” we will begin a transformational process which will guide us from finding the hole in our own lives to uncovering the hole in the Church. This will lead us to repairing the hole at home and in the world.  We will conclude this study with a HUGE celebration on Easter Sunday…the day the world was changed forever!

The structure of this study will be as such – your class will watch a short video and then engage in discussion and prayer together.  Each class will decide individually if they would like to participate in the study.  If a class decides not to, but you as an individual would like to, please contact Joey Parsons, as he will be organizing groups of people who desire to participate, though their class might not.  If you are not currently in a Sunday school class, you can still participate!  Contact Joey Parsons, as he will be forming new groups to study together.

Our sermon series is based around this study but will not come directly from Stearns’ book.  We will be focusing on Scripture and the truth there-in.  Here at Faith Church, we always begin with God’s Word, and then move to practical application as we study together.

If you have any questions, please contact either Joey Parsons or myself through the church office and we will be glad to help you participate in this transformational study during Lent!

Have a blessed season!

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Rob

 

God-Sized Prayers pt. 2

Jesus' disciples didn't ask him to teach them how to lead or preach or teach or administrate or communicate or understand doctrine.  They asked him to teach them to pray. 
— Joy Dawson

Last week we looked at J. Lee Grady’s challenge to pray BIG for these four miracles of God’s grace:

1. Spiritual awakening on college campuses;

2. Transformation of our inner cities;

3. Supernatural visitation among Native Americans; and

4. A wave of repentance among Christian men. This week, we finish his list, so pray these kingdom-focused prayers:

5. An unleashing of courage and compassion among Christian women. The biblical story of Deborah teaches that when times get tough, God often raises up brave women to meet the challenge. This has happened before in American history, when women affiliated with the Holiness Movement in the early 1900s challenged rampant alcoholism in order to protect families. In this decade I expect to see the greatest mobilization of women in history—both to fight social injustice at home and also to engage in aggressive mission work overseas.

6. Another Spirit outpouring among Roman Catholics. In the late 1960s, an unexpected “God moment” at a Catholic college in Pittsburgh sparked a worldwide movement that brought millions of Catholics into a personal relationship with Christ.. The fires of that awakening have died out, but God can do it again. I hope you love Catholics enough to pray for that.                        

7. Revitalization of American denominations. I believe God has been quietly working in many church networks to release a new passion to fulfill the Great Commission. Visionary leaders are scrapping the dead traditions of the past and forming new wineskins. Tired and ineffective programs are being eliminated, and denominations are becoming leaner and more fruitful. The result will be one of the greatest seasons of church planting in American history. Pray that every change will originate with God, and not the wisdom of men.

8. A Holy Spirit visitation inside the U.S. military. The threat of international terrorism is real, and evil forces are more aggressive. That’s why I’ve been asking God to mercifully touch all branches of our armed forces. We need people of faith on the front lines. We need generals who pray and soldiers who fear God. Arguments about separation of church and state seem silly when nuclear bombs are being aimed at us. We need leaders like Hezekiah,

After you’ve spent time praying for these God-sized moves, ask the Holy Spirit for bring to your mind other groups of people in our nation who need to be touched by His fire. (Hollywood, businesses, immigrants, senior citizens, teens and millennials, sports figures, etc.) If you find that your prayers are too small, too self-absorbed, too tame, focus this week on praying for things so big that it will take a mighty move of an omnipotent, loving God to bring them about.

 

God-Sized Prayers pt. 1

Pastor Rob is challenging Faith Church to increase our vision, and that means that we need to begin with prayer, expecting to see God’s Spirit doing God-sized works that bring glory to the Father and the Son. In PrayerConnect Magazine, J. Lee Grady challenges us to stop worrying and fretting, and instead, “pray BIG”:

We are divided politically and failing morally—and weird weather patterns, gun violence and global upheavals have darkened the gloom. Some people have thrown up their hands and prayed, “Lord, rapture us out of here!”
But I’m not ready to bail out, and I don’t think God is wringing His hands over the problems on Earth.. I’m not ignoring the seriousness of our dilemma, but losing hope is not the solution. God’s plan under the New Covenant is redemption, not judgment. He invites us to agree with Him for that miracle—and when He answers by fire from heaven, America could be changed in a day.  

So instead of fretting about the devil’s strategies, heading for the hills or condemning America to hell, I’m praying for a miracle of grace. Several big miracles, in fact. Here is my short list of prayer goals:

1. Spiritual awakening on college campuses. Today’s younger generation is biblically illiterate, spiritually clueless, largely fatherless, saturated in porn and skeptical of church and most TV preachers. That’s a bleak scenario, but my Bible says, “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20, NASB). When the hippies of the 1960s embraced drugs, sex and rock ‘n’ roll, God unleashed the Jesus Movement—and it marked a generation for Christ. He can do it again. I’m praying that this time it will also touch the 720,000 international students on U.S. campuses today.

2. Transformation of our inner cities. Some urban neighborhoods in the U.S. resemble bombed-out cities in the Third World. The devil thinks he owns these places, but God is empowering Nehemiahs to reclaim and rebuild the ruins. I expect this miracle to happen largely through African-American and Hispanic churches, especially those that have renounced legalistic religiosity. I’m expecting to hear good things out of Detroit, Miami, Atlanta, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Dallas, Boston and Baltimore, to name a few.                

3. Supernatural visitation among Native Americans. They were the first residents of this land, but today they are the least evangelized. Evangelism efforts backfired in the past because of prejudice and insensitivity. But God longs to reveal His Father’s love to the Native community. I expect a wave of revival to sweep from Native believers in northern Alaska to reservations in Oklahoma to urban centers like Denver, Phoenix and Santa Fe.

4. A wave of repentance among Christian men. So many churchgoing men today are bound by regret, sexual sin, fatherlessness and the shame of divorce. But God has promised to restore the hearts of fathers to their children and children to fathers (see Mal. 4:6). Any genuine move of the Holy Spirit will be accompanied by widespread restoration of families. And as fathers are restored, they will be equipped to be mentors to a broken generation.

If you find that your prayers are too small, too self-absorbed, your vision too tame, focus this week on praying for things so big that it will take a mighty move of an omnipotent, loving God to bring them about.          [These are the first four of eight…the rest next week.]