A Letter from the Pastor: Answering What’s Next?

Friends & Family,

Last night the latest recommendations of the CDC were published on my newsfeed, which strongly suggested no public gathering with more than 50 people for the next 8 weeks. Governor of Washington Jay Inslee followed suit and levied a similar ban, and then subsequently instituted the same internal requirements for all bars and restaurants. Our team had been anticipating at least two weeks without the ability to gather, but now this number has grown. We still anticipate reevaluating where we are at the end of March. Regardless, this is no longer a blip on the radar.
As a church community, we’ve strived to maintain a healthy perspective on our gatherings: that the Church is not an hour-long service on Sunday, but rather a people… a family. If you’ve been around Generations for any period of time, you’ve probably heard this or seen it stated with joy repeatedly. We have chosen to emphasize the everyday adjective. We have intentionally chosen both liturgical and Spirit-led practices in regard to our gatherings, wishing these to form how we live in response to what Jesus has done throughout our weeks.
Yet this doesn’t make the news last night any less jarring. As a pastor, I love gathering to worship with our Generations family! I love how Charles and the team lead us in worship through song. I love the casual environment where anyone can feel welcome. I (and I never thought I’d say this) even love the hard work of pulling all of our equipment out of the trailer setting it up, tearing it down, and putting it up again because it is a beautiful picture of what family united by Jesus does when they come together. Gatherings never have been our everything, but they’ve been a significant part of our practice of loving God and neighbor. They have marked us as a young church.

 

The circumstances have forced us to learn how to navigate a world without a Sunday Gathering at the American Legion. On one hand, I grieve the time we are losing together. Yet on the other, I see these days ahead as an opportunity to step more fully into our calling to (here I go again) be everyday people who expand the family of God because of Jesus for generations to come. What a time to hold our methods of doing church open-handed and allow God to shape us. As I’ve repeated, our gatherings may be moved or canceled, but Church is not.

 

So where do we go from here? Because the Church is family, maintaining and growing both spiritually and in community throughout these coming months must be an intentional focus. For most of us, we’ll likely not be in a room with more than our family or a few other folks. We are committed to two important steps in the coming days:

  1. to invest and equip our people through online resources and connection points (like social media or video conferencing), and
  2. meeting the tangible needs that will inevitably rise moving forward, both inside and outside our walls.

This week, I will be launching online community opportunities via Zoom Video and/or Google Meets. These are video platforms that will hopefully be accessible to the majority of our people and provide interaction and encouragement through the days ahead. For those who won’t have access to these tools, we’re committed to finding ways of equipping them with resources and connections as well. We will be experimenting, see what works, and keep our focus on Jesus.

 

On top of this, we’re aware of the financial strain that many of our own may be facing in the days ahead. We have maintained that the best way to make known both needs and resources for people inside and outside the walls of the Church is through texting 360.295.4141.  As these changes continue, we anticipate these needs to grow exponentially, and we want to be the kind of Church where “God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them (Acts 4:33b-34).” The church is family, right? Together, we can be that family through caring for the needs that arise. So in the coming days, if you find yourself in need, please – do not hesitate to contact us.

 

Finally, I want to encourage us as individuals moving forward in following Jesus. In the days ahead, it will never be more important to care for our souls through practices of both loving God and loving neighbor. As I’ve sought to navigate what is ahead, here are some of the practices I’d encourage:

 

  • Engage with God. We must remember who we are and whose we are in these troubled days ahead. This doesn’t happen by accident. In the weeks ahead, renew your commitment to abiding in the presence of God through Scripture and prayer. We will continue to equip you with resources, but it won’t happen by accident. Allow the Story of God in Scripture to be the lens through which you see the world around us – not the other way around.

  • Disengaging from the news. It’s important that we are informed and follow the guidelines that our authorities give us for our protection. Yet it’s one thing to be informed… and another to be engrossed. Spending our days in the constant stream of information and opinion will only further our anxiety and drive us further into scarcity and fear. As a discipline, learn what you need to know, then love your neighbor and yourself where you are. It’s ok to turn it off for some time.

  • Embody care for your physical needs. I don’t know about you, but this change has thrown any family rhythms that I had completely off. On my own, I’ll spend too much time sitting around, distracting myself with entertainment and not taking good care of myself. It’s important in the weeks ahead to care for our physical needs through exercise, eating as healthy as we can, and rest (there is a difference between rest and escape).

  • Reach out. I have heard is said that “our greatest poverty is loneliness.” We already live in one of the most isolated and lonely cultures in history, and this difficult season will surely accelerate the problem. In the days ahead, make it a habit of reaching out to 2-4 people every week. Check-in emotionally. Pray for one another. Learn of needs that may need to be met… in short, be family. Whether by phone, text, social media or another way make it a discipline to grow relationally with others in the days ahead.

  • Love your actual neighbor. You have neighbors. Physical neighbors. And in these times, they’re probably battling the same cycle of emotions that we are facing as well. In the coming weeks, reach out to your neighbors. If they need groceries, a yard mowed, or just a conversation, don’t hesitate to be the hands and feet of Jesus right where you are by loving your literal neighbors!

  • Pray. Intercession (a type of prayer) is simply asking God on behalf of other people, places or situations. In moments like these, the Church needs to mobilize in prayer for the healing and wholeness of our world. May we be quickened to prayer for God to break the power of this sickness over our world and bring healing! Resources for how and what to pray will be shared shortly.

In the days ahead, take courage. In an anxious world, let your faith steady you and embolden you beyond your own interests towards a love that looks like Jesus. Have the courage to love well. In the words of Paul, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).”

 

Friends and family of Generations Church, I love you. I am thankful for you. This challenge is an opportunity. God is present and at work among us, and I can’t wait for the stories of his faithfulness to rise and move us forward into a bright future.

 

In Christ,
Kyle Davies

How To Stay In The Conversation (Part 3)

images.jpegI stumbled across this show on CBS called Bull. I probably have binged a little too hard on it, but the show has been fascinating. The lead actor plays a psychologist who is an expert in trial science. The premise of the show is how every case has facts and every jury (every day people) hear these facts differently. So, Dr. Bull and his team weave the objective facts of the case with a creative narrative together to win legal cases. In most episodes, Dr. Bull chooses to work for the innocent party. The defendant will likely be found guilty aside from his help because the jury has already subconsciously found the defendant guilty prior to any case being heard. Sometimes this subconscious verdict is based on the media, sometimes on how the defendant is dressed or appears, or even the jury’s own self-projection from their life experiences. Dr. Bull and his team choose to present a case and narrative together which highlights the facts the jurors will actually hear.

Throughout the episodes, the narratives usually get quite creative. However, what has never been argued: 1) the objective and verifiable facts, 2) our experiences color how we see and interpret these facts, and 3) there are always more facts to be discovered.

The natural question in today’s world: Can we ever be objective about the facts?

In my optimism, I believe we can get objective facts, but what to do about those facts and how we interpret them will always be highly subjective.

The initial blog post asked: How do you stand firm in a Kingdom worldview while remaining humble and teachable in posture?

My answer: Resilient communication.

So far, I have shared the first two steps (saturation & care). The third step is FACT.

I define FACT as information without bias. Bull provides a colorful depiction of how difficult it is to present the facts without spin. It is inherent in our nature to filter everything we hear through our own lens.

In our culture where truth is “relevant” or “subjective,” FACT seems like an elusive word. The term Fake News has been tossed around. CNN recently ran an ad campaign about defining facts (to which some of you may find ironic). In most cases, everything has a spin. Most facts are articulated from personal perspective and experience, which come in layers and vary widely. Give the NY Post’s quiz on how Facebook defines hate speech a try to see how subjective statements can be. What is the core truth beneath these layers?

Because people are not all-knowing we must learn to ask good questions about the potential narrative being sold to us. Therefore, when staying in the conversation we should present what we think we know humbly and sincerely. Direct information with no judgment is a must. Statements without sentiment should be shared to find common ground from which a relationship can be built.

I would argue whatever facts we do present should be loosely at our fingertips, ready and willing to hear new information. When new information is discovered, we should show grace. Further, avoid leading or suggestive questions. In a conversation which you are trying to listen and learn, you must be careful not to skew the potential response. Suggesting a prepackaged answer will likely create barriers, rather than take them down. We tend to share our views of the facts or our interpretations of them to win, persuade, or achieve some hidden objective.

If the goal is to stay in the conversation, then we must learn to present information without bias. Here are some examples of FACT:

  • Colin Kaepernick chose to kneel during the national anthem to raise awareness about the police brutality against black men, women, and teenagers.
  • Marijuana affects the parts of the brain that control emotions, memory, and judgment.
  • The Bible is God’s special revelation of himself.

These three sentences could be stated very differently.

  • Colin Kaepernick is desecrating the American flag.
  • Marijuana causes negative damage to a person’s body and image.
  • It is wrong to believe in both evolution and the what the Bible says.

These are probably exaggerated and not the best examples. However, when we are in the heat of conversation, we need to be aware of which statements are facts and which sentiments are our feelings toward what has happened.

As a Christian, we need not fear Christianity in the marketplace of worldviews. I believe a Christian worldview is unparalleled to any other worldview. The narrative of God himself coming to rescue and renewal all creation through the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ is the ultimate narrative. Any other narrative which competes for supremacy will inadequately deal with the brokenness of life.

As you talk with your neighbors, co-workers, friends, family, and others online, do you espouse a worldview consistent with Christ, or bias and barriers?

Find the facts. Listen and learn. Stay in the conversation.

Lasting Legacy

 

Bill with Xavier

Bill with Xavier & Sam

Today, it is tough to find the right words. My thoughts are scattered and emotions are conflicted. So, I will simply say this…I am thankful for Bill’s influence on my life. Below is a picture of an email he sent as we began 2014.  For a little context, we (those listed in the email) had committed to memorizing a verse a week for the full year during our time together at Christmas. I think the email captures his life well. He loved Christmas. He loved his family. He loved helping others grow their walks with God. He loved God. His love for God and faithfulness to God shone through in every area of his life.

 

Screen Shot 2017-08-29 at 7.07.34 AM

Even after his passing, we continued to memorize, knowing our efforts would bring honor both to God and to Bill. I look forward to heaven and getting a chance to speak with him again.

Offer Better

Today, I as I concluded my reading in Acts the second half of the final chapter really stood out to me.

23 After arranging a day with him, many came to him at his lodging. From dawn to dusk he expounded and testified about the kingdom of God. He tried to persuade them about Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets. 24 Some were persuaded by what he said, but others did not believe. 

Paul testified about the kingdom of God. I thought the phrasing sounded familiar. In Acts 1, Jesus concludes his time on earth by “speaking about the kingdom of God.” The kingdom of God has been expounded upon and heavily debated theologically. However, now more than ever, I am seeing a need to return to communicating specifically about the way of Jesus. Too many churches teach and preach as if we can fix ourselves in lieu of a God who loves us from a distance, yet never take the time to know Him. Modified self-help expressions of Christianity do not work. People do not buy it. What does it look like for God’s laws and love to permeate every aspect of our lives?

I had two recent conversations with different people about the Gospel. Both openly rejected historic institutional Christianity. They wanted no part in another social club that had a poor history. However, when the conversation changed to following Jesus and allowing his model and teaching found in the Bible affect our lives, they were more open. In fact, one agnostic Jew (non-practicing, self-proclaimed agnostic, Jewish heritage by birth), made a distinct comment as I asked him to respond to my spiritual journey coupled with the Gospel. “I like the way you have articulated the personal belief and expression to following Jesus. That makes sense. No, there is no way I would consider Christianity as a religion for myself or my family.” In his mind, Christianity brings bad, but following Jesus may bring some good.

Somewhere along the line, our thinking shifted from Christianity as a movement to be advanced to an institution to be maintained. To do ministry or to organize something to care for people and connect with people that does not directly get organized by a committee, team, or minister in the church is completely foreign in most cases. To simply equip people to go live as Jesus has transformed their lives and respond to the Holy Spirit takes serious effort, instead of simple obedience. Alvin Reid comments on the need for such a reversal:

We can complain about that and mourn the loss of impact, or we can look at the early church who had no standing in the culture, had no buildings to invite people to enter, and yet so lived the gospel in the culture that they turned the world upside down…A missional church focuses as much or more outside its fellowship (and thus outside the walls of the building!) as it does on the inside. Missional believers think of themselves as being sent into the culture as ambassadors for Christ. The typical conventional church today magnifies what happens inside its fellowship and often even more inside a building (which is not the church, by the way).

The rediscovery of Christianity as a movement (the kingdom of God manifested in every believer) is paramount to the future of the church. The rediscovery can get messy and will get messy. We are dealing with real people and their real problems. We are dealing with a real world and its real brokenness. But, seeing the kingdom manifested is nothing less than joining Jesus on His mission to seek and to save the lost through making disciples. It is seeing the holistic health of God come to a city. It is a foretaste of a future heaven. It is God in action through His people.

What’s fascinating? Our world is trying to provide holistic health, transformation, and enter into the mess. In some cases, they are doing a better job than the church. Our founder, Jesus, was the best possible example of entering into the mess.

Last week, I went to a gathering of faith-based people in all professions for the city of Vancouver. The organizers always have someone present some information. The main speaker provided a brief overview of ACEs and how to have tough conversations with teenagers and families specifically around the issue of marijuana, opioids, and alcohol (see youthnow.me for some of the information provided). The main speaker had to repeatedly encourage those in attendance, “messy means it won’t look like you think it should.” She then would provide a very normal example from her experiences. One example she provided: progress may mean the parent goes from smoking weed every day and giving it to their kid to smoking weed every day and not giving it to their kid. Progress. Steps.

Her other main point: “You cannot take (fill in the blank drug) without offering something better, or when stress gets high they will always return to (fill in the blank drug to cope).”

As I heard her plea to offer something better to faith-based people who served in health services, social services, the school systems, and other community health organization, I could not help but ask a few questions.

Church, are we truly offering something better?

Christian, are you living something better?

Better is not demonizing their choices or the consequences. Better is not fixing them. Better is not making them more moral. Better is not a message of faux happiness. Better is not dismissive of “faulty” reasoning. Better is not merely waiting to talk and share information. Better is not ignoring the mess.

Better is resiliently listening to those in front of us and seeing them as people, not projects. Better is keeping curious even when we do not want to be. Better is being empathetic. Better is following through on a care path. Better is connecting the dots from the Gospel to life’s situations. Better is including them in your walk with Jesus on how you are letting the kingdom of God transform every area of your life. Better is hope and joy in the ways of Jesus.

30 Paul stayed two whole years in his own rented house. And he welcomed all who visited him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

 

CP Students’ Next Step (3/29)

SUNDAY MORNING

This week we discussed how Jesus is our warrior who saves us from judgment. Zephaniah describes God as a mighty warrior for is fighting for us.

KEY TEXT: Zephaniah 3:9-17

CENTRAL TRUTH: Jesus is our warrior who saves us from judgment.

PERSONAL CHALLENGE:

  • Dwell: As believers, we must be diligent to live our lives for Christ in a world that is adamantly opposed to His name. We will suffer because of that and the Bible warns us of those days. When you find yourself suffering, never forget that you have a God who stands as a mighty Warrior who is among you and who is ready to save.
  • Memorize: Zephaniah 3:17
  • Pray: Thank the Lord for standing as your Warrior and for seeking you out. Thank Him for His love in sending Jesus and for the salvation we have in Christ. Ask God to help you trust Him as Warrior and King of your life.

KEEP ON DIGGING: 

Read the Book of Zephaniah this week. It is a short book, but reading it will give you a better understanding of what was going on that prompted the verses that you studied today.

SUNDAY NIGHT

Luke tells us that Jesus came to die for our sin, but also to form a people of God who, renewed by his Spirit, are able to serve him in righteousness and holiness all of their days. This good news is open to all and God wants the news of Jesus shared with all. As followers of Jesus, as Christians, we are to partner with God is carrying this good news of forgiveness and hope because of Jesus to those in our lives where God has placed us and is calling us.

KEY TEXT: Luke 6:27-36

CRITICAL QUESTION: What does it look like to love our enemies? How does loving of enemies show people the character of Jesus?