The TV gameshow “Family Feud” filled family rooms for years. The creators of the game asked 100 people questions on a survey. The contestants, two feuding families, tried to guess the most popular answers. The team with the most points at the end would win and would have a chance for a bonus survey round. A sample question might go something like, “100 people were asked about their favorite topping for ice cream.” One family could guess the top answers trying to reach 100 until they received 3 strikes.
The fun begins when the common answers quickly run out. Let’s say, 57 people surveyed like chocolate topping on ice cream. Twenty-five people liked caramel topping and 16 people liked strawberries. Well that’s 98% of people surveyed. Now the two teams are fighting to guess what the last two people liked on their ice cream. You can hear some weird and funny suggestions about what people might like on their ice cream. Jalapenos anyone? Survey says, X (wrong).
Well, we know answers on a very short survey provide a lot of information. Would you be so kind as to answer a short survey? Of course, these questions will not ask what you like on your ice cream. Rather, they will ask about our community of faith and how we can do even better at sharing God’s love, shining God’s light and shaping God’s people.
You will find our First Presbyterian Church’s “Best Survey Ever” insert in this ALERT. You may complete it and bring it to church or drop it in the mail. We will also pass out the survey in worship, so you may fill it out and simply leave it on the pew or put it in the offering plate. Finally, we will email the survey out and you may hit the reply button to complete the answers and email it back. It is very short and will help us serve you and Christ. Please take two minutes to answer the questions in “The Best Survey Ever!”
Blessings, Rev. Trey Hegar
On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther defiantly nailed a copy of his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church. “The 95 Theses,” also known as “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” is a list of questions and propositions for debate within the church. Popular legend has it that this is the beginning of the Protestant Reforma-
tion, which marks its 500th year this fall. Of course, scholars and historians can’t nail down a specific date to the begin-ning and end of the Reformation. It was a liquid movement that did not solidify in name until much later. It was more a conversation that had taken place for decades prior to Luther’s works. The reforms took place for many decades following the initial momentum as well.
One of the popular phrases to manifest from the reformation was the Latin term Ecclesia Reformanda, Semper Reformata, which means the reformed church is always reforming. Inside the church, change seems to happen one of two ways. It can happen painstakingly slowly or it can happen frightfully fast. Usually though, these are changes in style of worship or church customs. Those are important, but often what lies beneath those changes are major shifts in thought and beliefs about God, Jesus, the Spirit and authority of the church.
This fall, we will look at what it means to be a part of the Reformed church and the changes happening across our culture with church. Phyllis Tickle’s book “The Great Emergence: How the Church is Changing and Why,” explores how every 500 years or so, the church—and the world—experience huge social, political, economic, and cultural shifts.
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If you haven’t read this book, you might like to, as it was written for a time as this. Tickle says we are traversing through our own Reformation. She calls it the “Great Emergence and explores relevant questions like what happens when the church cleans out its attic. She also dives into our loss and discovery of a common story through Christ. She also looks at the way ahead, while mapping fault lines and fusions and asking what does this revolutionary evolution mean for the church? What are the changes we see in the church now? Can we see the future transitions from reading the past?
I would like to explore one of the biggest ideas to come through the reformation that has affected our beliefs: Sola Scriptura. This was the thought that we know the love of God through Scripture alone and the scripture, not the Church or Jesus, is basis of faith and authority. This is one of what’s called the Five Solas to emerge from the reformation. 1 Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is our highest authority. Prior to the Reformation, the Church erred in many ways. The Bible was then used to correct the perceived injustices of the church. However, many feel the church has erred too far to the weight of Sola Scriptura in the past 500 years. For many Scripture alone has become the sole test of faith, to the neglect of Jesus’ acts and work or the authority of the church. That is, the baby was thrown out with the bath water.
The idea of sola scriptura has morphed so egregiously that some make an idol out of scripture and worship it instead of Jesus. Scripture has been called inerrant and infallible, while the final act of Jesus is relegated to a sub par event. What would it look like to recover the rule of love from Jesus? What if Jesus and his love was the authority? On the next page, you can read the list of the Five Solas from the reformation. We will look at each of these and what they mean for our lives today.
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1 Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”):
The Bible alone is our highest authority.
2 Sola Fide (“faith alone”):
We are saved through Christ’s faith alone toward us.
3 Sola Gratia (“grace alone”):
We are saved by the grace of God alone.
4 Solus Christus (“Christ alone”):
Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
5 Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”):
We live for the glory of God alone.
Finally, while I am intellectually excited to explore some of Tickle’s thoughts this fall and each of the Five Solas, I am also interested to know what the church has meant for you. What are some ways the church has been a blessing? What are some things the church must reform in order to lead your families the next 500 years? If you were Martin Luther, what 95 things would you write about?
Rev. Trey Hegar
Growing up I was raised in a church that taught “All are welcome.” My pastor lifted up scriptures about how Jesus loved the poor, the stranger, the widows, and the orphans. We heard about how he hung out with some people who were considered alcoholics and others considered adulterous. Jesus said, “Let all the children come to me.”
My pastor’s message often centered on how Jesus started
a religious revolution, where he turned the tables around on who was welcome in God’s house.
I was raised to believe that we are to love as God has loved. It wasn’t long after my own confirmation that I began to “check out” the big giant Baptist church down the street. They bought all of the land on several city blocks. They also bought a strip mall area for a singles and youth ministry.
I went with some “popular” friends. My jaw dropped as I listened to a “teen talk” that warned these “Christian disciples” about hanging out with people who would take them down the wrong path in life. The young good looking pastor, dressed in stylish clothes, told fiery horror stories of what happened to sinners. He made it clear we should pity them, but distance ourselves. The outcasts were not welcome. God’s love was reserved for some, but not others. It was the exact opposite message of the Good
News and love that I had heard from church.
Now, that was nearly 30 years ago. Well, not too long ago,
I felt rage well up inside of me as I heard another pastor preach a similar message about excluding people. The message was bent on religious purity. He drew lines een “us and them.” We are pure. They are not.
If they conform to our absolute ways they are welcome, but until then, they are to be kept at a distance. The message hurled me back to my youth, where I felt like crying for every person who was not “clean cut” enough for this church. I have begun to feel more and more like some of our “Christian” Churches re not teaching the love and grace of Jesus. They are teaching exclusive fear based dogma. It worries me that my unchurched friends think this is what all churches teach. This is why I feel like now is the time to invest more into our Christian Education and Youth programming. We have a unique message of Good News.
It is infused with the grace of Jesus Christ instead of condemnation.
This fall we will begin our Wednesday Night Revolutions. We will make disciples who follow the revolutionary way and love Jesus. These will be some of the programs offered:
Elementary Youth Rally and Study
Adult Bible Study
Wednesday Worship and a Message
An Intergenerational Church Dinner
Press On for Junior High and Senior High
We are planning for this night to be a way to reach out in new ways. We hope to draw new families and more youth. We hope our senior high youth, especially Juniors and Seniors, will help grow the elementary program by using their gifts to teach and lead the younger children. We hope to empower our adults to find ways to grow in Christ outside of Sunday morning worship. We will provide relevant Bible studies for real people dealing with real life issues. We will learn to practice the ways of Christ. All are Welcome from the youngest child to the oldest member.
Do you want a revolution? More to come….
Blessings, Rev. Trey Hegar
The actual quote, “Beware the Ides of March,” is from Shakespeare's tragedy Julius Caesar (1599). The warning is uttered by a soothsayer who is letting Roman leader Julius Caesar know that his life is in danger, and he should probably stay home and be careful when March 15, the Ides of March, rolls around. Of course, Caesar did not stay home a thousand years and several centuries before Shakespeare wrote his tragedy about 12 senators stabbing Caesar in the back. Now, the day and the quote live on in infamy.
According to the Smithsonian Magazine website, a few
other devastating events happened on March 15. In 1939 Germany occupied Czechoslovakia. Nazi troops seized the provinces of Bohemia and Moravia, effectively wiping Czechoslovakia off the map. On March 15, 1941, a Saturday-night blizzard struck the northern Great Plains, leaving at least 60 people dead in North Dakota and Minnesota and six more in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. A light evening snow did not deter people from going out—“after all, Saturday night was the time for socializing,” Diane Boit of Hendrum, Minnesota, would recall—but “suddenly the wind switched, and a rumbling sound could be heard as 60 mile-an-hour winds swept down out of the north.” And on March 15, 1952, a rainfall began on the Indian Ocean island of La Réunion—and kept falling, hard enough to register a world record 24-hour rainfall of 73.62 inches.
But who cares? Do we really believe that March 15 is any different than any other day? We could say, “Beware of September 17” or “Beware of June 28!” You should beware of that last one. It is my birthday. This is to say that you shouldn’t only, “Beware the Ides of March.” You should beware every day. Beware of your blessings. Beware of your woes. Beware of the needs around you. Beware of the beauty of life.
Here are a few daily practices I use to help me be aware. I read my Bible. Specifically, I read the proverb of the day. There happens to be 31 Proverbs and 31 days in the month. The wisdom shared in those scriptures almost always speak directly to my life in some way. For instance, one day I read Proverbs 15:1 that said, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” I needed to be guided by those very words as I counseled with a friend in a con-tentious situation. The words came just as he needed them.
Another daily practice is prayer. But this isn’t just any prayer. It is a prayer of thanksgiving. I give thanks for being loved by God. I say thanks for Hudson and Sarah, my extended family, the church and my job, and that God called me to be more than I was ever able to be on my own. Then, I pray for intercession in the lives of those I love who need healing. Finally, I pray a prayer of motivation. This is kind of like a football prayer. It pumps me up. I pray, “let me enjoy this day, love deeply, and be aware of your Spirit in all people and places.”
Finally, another practice I have daily is to know joy and to get out of my analytical brain and into my creative brain. I have hobbies that help me do this. For example, pyrography (wood burning), which is slow and intentional, or practicing a guitar lesson. These hobby practices get me out of a work mode and help me appreciate another part of life. These disciplines wake me up to the life surrounding me every day. They help me be aware. I hope you will do some of the disciplines that help you be aware every day, too.
Rev. Trey Hegar
Goals are good. They give us something to focus on so that we don’t meander aimlessly, blown about by the wind. Reflecting back, I set personal goals and church-wide goals for the year. Looking forward, I set objectives to help continue working on these goals. I would like to share my personal goals and then our church-wide goals, followed by objectives.
My personal goals are to grow spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and physically. I have objectives to help obtain these goals. It sounds rigid, but it’s not. The objectives are simple. Spiritually, do my devotions and prayers. There are obvious differences on the days I spend quality time with God in prayer. Yet, even on the days when my prayer time
is not as deep as I would prefer, it is still impactful.
Intellectually, I am currently reading things I don’t like. It is backwards, but it causes leaps in growth. For instance, I am reading a book “Called the End of Faith” by Sam Harris. He argues about how moderate thinking Christians are worse than fundamental jihadists or fringe extremist Christians. The book drives me nuts, but I am learning to articulate what I believe intellectually.
Emotionally, I have an objective to remain in touch with old friends and to talk with my Mom more frequently. It takes an effort to find time do these things I enjoy. The more I reach out in love, the more love I have to share everywhere else.
Physically, I am growing. However, it is in the wrong direction according to my doctor. Personally, I am planning to hike a very small portion of the Appalachian Trail this summer. Hey, we all need room to grow.
Reflecting back on our church-wide goals in May of 2015, we set some big hairy audacious goals (BHAGs). We said in 5 years, we will add 50 new members, do 50 individual and church-wide mission projects, and increase our local and global giving to $50,000 for charities and missions. We have three and half years to go.
Right now, we have 27 new members on the rolls to celebrate our membership goal. Wow! We will have another Presbyterian 101 class in the New Year for anyone interested in joining or learning more about our church. We also have 20 youth in our confirmation class, who will make a decision about joining. That goal doesn’t seem so big and hairy now. Amazing!
We have completed our Mission Projects goal. We have had more than 50 people participate in personal and church mission projects. I way underestimated that goal. We will have to revamp it. I am thinking that each year we make our new goal to do a youth mission trip, adult mission trip and one community service project each quarter, along with our Fellowship Cup ministries we already do. Let’s talk about what you would like to do!
For our benevolent giving, I hope you are blown away. We are currently giving about $27,000 in benevolent gifts through our church, including our Two-Cent-a-Meal offerings and special offerings. This includes donations to places like the Christamore Family Treatment Center to help at risk
youth, the Fellowship Cup to feed the hungry, the Habitat for
Humanity to build homes, Family Connection to help educate families, and many more. Friends, that is a tithe of almost 12% of our 2016 operations budget. We hope to increase this number for 2017 to continue toward our Big Hairy Audacious Giving Goal. Your donations make a difference.
So looking forward, here are some of my church-wide objectives for us to help meet our Goals. I will lead us on an adult mission trip. I will encourage our Parish Life Team to coordinate more member led fellowship like pathfinders, house dinners, church outings, and potlucks, etc. Sarah hopes to have a few sports days with church volleyball, basketball, and kickball. I am working with the Missions Team to develop more community service project days. Hopefully, we can do one a quarter.
For education, I plan to lead evening forums on topics for faith development like money and faith, marriage and faith, and the media and faith. For worship, I would love, love, love an occasional alternative evening worship with music and a Bible study to develop by the fall.
And for my personal and church goals, I am in conversation with a few others about having an exciting program called “Lighten Up for Lent.” This program includes a book study, but also a weight loss competition amongst us, and hopefully with a few other churches, too.
Finally, I want to encourage all of you to set goals for your faith, your family, and your church. What do you want to do? What can you do to make sure it happens?
May Christ bless our journey in the New Year. Amen.
Rev. Trey Hegar