From the Cutting Room: Luke 4

We are currently working our way through the book of Luke at my church. This past Sunday we dove into Luke 4. The problem was that there was too much information that I wanted to share so I had to cut a bunch of stuff from my message! Here’s a little bit that didn’t make the cut:

As we dive into Luke four, we get this amazing snapshot of the temptation of Jesus Christ. Jesus was tempted. He was really and truly tempted! That tells us that temptation itself is not a sin. Satan has lied to some of us and we’ve believed that just because we’ve been tempted, we’re already defeated. That’s not true! Jesus was tempted and did not sin. We too can face temptation and experience victory instead of defeat.

Thomas Brooks, a Puritan author, wrote a book called Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices. What a great name for a book! I’m thinking I should write a book called Precious Remedies for Church Planters Facing Discouragement. Anyways- Brooks uses this amazing analogy. He says that temptation is nothing more than bait on a hook. All the fisherman out there will get this! When you are fishing, the goal is to reel that fish in. You will use whatever bait that you think will work the best to catch that fish.

Satan will come to you as he came to Jesus and he will bait your hook with whatever it is that will be the most tempting to you: food, sex, money, security, comfort, whatever it might be. Whatever it is, he’ll use it to bait his hook. His entire goal is to give you whatever you so desperately want so that you take a big bite of the bait, so that the hook gets embedded in your mouth. Then the the Devil can reel you in toward death. The problem is that people ignore the hook and only focus on the bait.

See, Satan, if he came to you and said, “I would like you to experience divorce or gluttony or obesity or drunkenness or drug addiction or ruined family relationships due to gossip or bitterness,” no one would bite down on that hook! No way! But our enemy is crafty. He finds ways to bait those hooks with whatever it takes to get us to take a bite. 

Satan will use use things that all of us would agree are “good things” as bait. We can guess from the tactics that the devil uses that perhaps Jesus is struggling with what it means to do God’s will and bring about His purposes. The first temptation is not only personal but has a social justice slant: Will Jesus’ ministry be one of turning stones to bread to meet people’s physical needs? That’s a good thing, right? Feeding people and taking care of their physical needs?

The second temptation has a political angle. Will Jesus submit to the rulers of the world in order to achieve good for the people of this world? Don’t the ends justify the means? It MUST be ok to overlook a politician’s character flaws because they promise to help move forward our political agenda, right?

The third temptation is religious. Will Jesus win over Jerusalem and the Jewish people by works and miracles, thus avoiding the terrible scandal of death on the cross? It would be a whole lot easier to avoid all that blood and substitutionary atonement talk! A good religious show is much easier to market! 

The devil will often tempt us with good things that get in the way of our true purpose. Feeding hungry people and meeting people’s physical needs? That’s great! Bringing justice through political religious coalitions- good stuff! Supernatural signs- great! But all were distractions from Jesus’ primary purpose. He came to live the life we could not live, to die the death we should have died, to pay the price we owed so that we can be saved from the CURSE of sin and welcomed into a COVENANT relationship with God our CREATOR.

The serpent didn’t temp Eve in the garden with the temptation to be like the devil. The serpent tempted Eve with the offer to be like GOD.

Are there good things that the devil is using in your life to distract you from your true purpose? Are there things that the devil is using as bait to get you to swallow a hook that he will use to reel you in to certain death?

With Jesus’ help- you can RESIST temptation! You can experience victory and freedom!

Why Plant a Church with Converge?

I was talking with my new friend Chris about church planting at my office this afternoon. And by “office”, I mean the Starbucks I work out of Monday through Friday. I love my Starbucks! (In fact, someone even wrote an article about it and called me “The Starbucks Pastor”!) So there I was at Starbucks, talking with Chris, who is starting a new church in New Brighton, MN.

As I listened to him talk about his church planting journey I couldn’t help but compare his journey to mine. His denomination has not been able to be much of a support to him. After talking for a while, he asked me what I would do if I was in his shoes. First thing I said? “If I were you…I would join Converge and be one of our planters!”

Why would I say that? Why would I tell him to leave his fine denomination and join our small but mighty tribe?

Being a part of Converge North Central has made all the difference in the world in our church planting journey! I love my “tribe” so much! I don’t think I ever felt like I truly belonged until I became a part of the Minnesota/Iowa Baptist Conference (now known as Converge North Central).

So what makes Converge so great?

1. I feel like I BELONG 

The Converge pastors I’ve come to know in our district are super down-to-earth, normal dudes. I love that. They cheer each other on in such an encouraging way. The other church planters in our network are guys I actually like to hang out with. It is a great group to be a part of!

2. Amazing COACHING

I get to be coached by one of the greatest church planting coaches in the world! Dave Reno planted his church 27 years ago. Since then, his church has directly planted 26 daughter churches and his daughter churches have given birth to 8 granddaughter churches. That is truly phenomenal! There are 8x as many people attending a Sunday morning service at one of their daughter or granddaughter churches than attend his church. That shows the incredible power of multiplication!  And I get to be coached by Dave- the “Yoda of Church Planting”!

3. Humble and Supportive LEADERSHIP

I have gone through some really tough ministry experiences. I have made some mistakes and have also endured some really hurtful church experiences. I was ready to give up on the dream of church planting. But then I met Dave Reno and Ben McEachern (my other coach) and the Converge North Central leadership. They have supported me, believed in me, and took a risk on me. I will forever be grateful to Dan Carlson, Joel Nelson, and Mandy Johnson at the district office and Dave and Ben. Not only have they supported and believed in me, they are some of the  most humble and gracious leaders I have ever met.

There are many reasons to plant a church with Converge, but those are the top three that I came up with today. Two and a half years ago I was fertilizing lawns in Madison, WI, and didn’t know if I would ever get the chance to pastor a church. Today, thanks to Converge, I am leading a 15 month old church of 215 people that has baptized 25 people and seen dozens come to salvation in Jesus for the first time. God is so good and he has used Converge to help me in my church planting journey and to fulfill the purpose that God put me here to accomplish.

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CARRY THE WEIGHT

I pastor a church of about 250 people. We have a great prayer team and amazing small group leaders! But still, the weight of the prayer requests and the burdens of the people in our small/medium sized church is pretty incredible. I know I’m still pretty new to this whole “lead pastor” thing. I have a hard time imaging what it’s like pastoring a church of 500 or more and what those burdens are like!

But maybe it’s like parenting? When you are a parent to one kid, their needs feel almost overwhelming. Then you add more kids and your parenting muscles get stronger. Maybe it’s the same with pastoring?

God builds your prayer and shepherding muscles so you can care for more and more. I know I need to continue to also learn from Moses and take Jethro’s advice (Exodus 18). Some of that probably just comes as a church matures in age.

Anyways- my prayer is that God would teach me to know how to number my days and to let Him carry my burdens and the burdens of the people I shepherd and lead. Which made me think of this awesome song:

I don’t know what burdens you are carrying. But my prayer for you is that you too can learn that you don’t need to carry the weight alone. Let God carry your burden. Let God carry YOU.

Better days are coming my friend. We’re all on a journey. The best is yet to come!

 

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Feeling Overwhelmed?

overwhelmed-graphicReal Life Here: I’m so very tired. And I’m so very tired of sick kids. (Honestly, I’m just a little tired of my kids). And yet…

And yet, at the same time I feel so incredibly grateful for the many, many blessings is my
life. We suffered through 3 years of infertility and multiple miscarriages, not knowing if we would ever have a child, let alone 3 kids! And now we have been blessed with 3 amazing kids!

12472782_10101698954324820_5749570881580611229_nYes, they are exhausting. Yes, having three kids 5 years old and under consumes ALL. YOUR. TIME. And energy! But they are still such a blessing. And I love each one so very much. Just look at those adorable faces! (Just please start sleeping through the night kids! In your own beds!)

I look around our beautiful suburban home and think how quickly it goes from clean and organized to looking like a disaster zone. And yet, I’m so incredibly grateful for this house God has provided for us. Our first “real home” in our marriage where we don’t have to share walls with someone! A beautiful home with tons of space to host small groups, leadership meetings, and newcomer lunches. I’m so thankful for this home and all the ministry we get to do in it.

And then there’s the church. Being a Church Planter means going to bed every night with things left undone on your to-do list. Starting a church is a lot like starting a new business or non-profit- there are ALWAYS more things to do! But as exhausting as church planting can be…man- I am so THRILLED that I get to do it!

This is what I was put here on this earth to do!

I feel like my whole life was a training ground that prepared me to do this. And everyday, I thank God that I get to do this.

So yes, today I am tired and overwhelmed and feel like a failure as a dad and a husband, but I know that God’s got this. When I am weak, He is strong.

If you are tired and overwhelmed and feel like you are not measuring up as a spouse or parent or at your job, I want to encourage you to know that

YOU.

ARE.

ENOUGH.

Don’t strive so hard. God’s got this. God’s got YOU! Count your blessings and maybe take a nap. Or get another cup of coffee.

Get your hopes up.

Rejoice in HOPE, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12 (ESV)

The Importance of Guest Surveys

I was working out at the gym this morning when I saw one of our Mosaic Guest Surveys downloadcome through my inbox on my phone. I always love reading the surveys we send out to second time guests. As I read this one, I found myself pumping my fist and saying “Yes!” out loud. At they gym. Fortunately, pretty much everyone was in their own world with ear buds in, so no one seemed to notice.

Here’s what I read on my phone at the gym:

  1. What influenced your decision to attend Mosaic a second time? My wife and I have never truly found a community here in Minnesota (moved here 3 years ago), and it felt like we were pushed this direction by God to have Mosaic came into our lives at a time when we needed to let go of doubt and false labels.
  2.  What was most memorable about your first or second visit to Mosaic? Many of the messages have lately been directly relevant to us lately.
  3.  Would you feel comfortable inviting your friends to attend Mosaic with you? Why or why not? Sure, I appreciate a strong community and people looking for a home may find it with Mosaic. Actions speak louder than words, and perhaps people will ask what’s uplifted me recently.
  4.  How could we improve your experience? I was actually talking with my wife about this last Saturday on the drive home and last night. I never really grew up thinking what could make things better for me, I grew up fairly poor and took heart in trying to service others through words and actions. Since moving to Minnesota however I haven’t spent much time outward. God has blessed us now and I feel like our blessings should be paid forward.

Here are 3 reasons why I think it’s a great idea to send out some sort of survey to your guests who come back a second time.

1.) Unfiltered Feedback. Sending out surveys is a good way to find out if your preaching specifically and your church in general is accomplishing the mission God has given you. It’s good to get feedback from people who regularly attend your church. But they already know you and hopefully love you! Getting survey results from guests is a great way to get unfiltered feedback. When guests are telling you that your messages are relevant to what they are going through, you know you are on the right track! If you aren’t getting that kind of feedback…well, maybe you need to change what you are preaching on.

2.) Encouragement for Your Team. When you get cool stories from your surveys, you can pass those along to encourage your team. They can be used to remind your team why they go through so much effort each Sunday to pull Sunday services off.

3.) Tool to Improve Your Team. Occasionally, guests will let us know that there is an area that needs addressing. It might be something that has become invisible to us because  we just don’t see things the same way as a first or second time guest.

If you are a church leader or even a business leader, I would encourage you to figure out how you can offer a simple, short guest survey to those that are new to your church or business. Hopefully you’ll find it’s worth it for you too!

What A Year!

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about all that God has done in the last 12 months.

It’s been quite a journey to get to this point! After many years of wrestling with God’s call to plant a church, Kristin and I decided to face our fears and trust God and take the scary step to plant Mosaic Church.

On December 20, 2014 we moved to Maple Grove, MN. We decided that we were going to put down roots and invest for the long haul, so instead of choosing to rent for a while and see if this thing worked out, we were blessed to be able to buy our first home. We were committed- no matter what happened with the church plant.

Two months later we held our first informational meeting for people interested in knowing more about this new church we were starting. 4 people showed up to our house. Not a very auspicious start! But I kept believing in God’s call, kept working hard to get the word out, and after dozens and dozens of one-on-one coffee meetings at Starbucks, we had our first Launch Team Meeting on May 17, 2015. I was so amazed that God brought together 64 adults and kids to worship God and to dream about what God could do through us! It was the beginning of God doing something really special in Maple Grove through Mosaic Church.

After lots of summer BBQs and worship nights and a few preview services, we had our Grand Opening on October 4, 2015. I was blown away to see 280 people come out for our Grand Opening! Let me tell you- that was a once in a lifetime experience. Seeing all these people I had never met before park their cars and head into Weaver Lake Elementary School. It is something I will never forget.

This winter, Mosaic Church has been averaging about 140 people each Sunday with 132 people involved in a small group. I can’t believe that we have almost as many people involved in a small group as we have attending our worship service on Sunday mornings! It’s not about just gathering a crowd- it’s about making disciples and building a church!

In the 20 weeks (is that all?!?) since we launched Mosaic Church, 12 people have come to know Christ as their savior and Mosaic has had the privilege to baptize 2 people and dedicate 10 children to the Lord. Man. It has been a wild ride! God is so good!

So what’s next? We are excited to kick off our Student Ministry next month. We are exploring what it would take to offer an Arts Camp to kids in our community this summer. We are making plans for our first mission trip to Kenya. And I am praying AUDACIOUS prayers knowing that God is ABLE to do AMAZING things through Mosaic Church these next 12 months!

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Mosaic Church Grand Opening

Planting a Church!

StartAs I held that simple sheet of paper in my hands, I knew that this was it. Everything was about to change! And that was both scary and exhilarating!  On the last day of 2014, I was given my official Call Letter to be a lead pastor/church planter with Converge North Central (Baptist General Conference).

We are so thankful that we are not on this journey alone! We have two awesome parent churches (Northridge Fellowship and Grace Fellowship) who will be coaching us and giving us tons of support.  They are letting us recruit between 50 and 60 people between the two churches to help us gather a core launch team. If you don’t know, that is incredibly generous of them! They have also committed $56,000 in financial support, which helps us get more than halfway to our goal of raising $100,000 for this new church start. Again, this is amazingly generous!

I’ll be spending the next four months as a “church planter in residence” at Northridge Fellowship in Rogers, MN. This will give me a great opportunity to continue learning about church planting as well as time to invest in relationships as we build our core team. I’m really excited about this opportunity as well as the gift of having our family plug into an existing church for a while. 

We are also very excited to be a part of a church planting group called Minnesota Grace. This is a group of Converge churches that are all daughter (or grand-daughter) churches of Grace Fellowship in Brooklyn Park, MN. Grace Fellowship has planted well over 20 churches in the past 25 years and is passionate about planting churches that are passionate about planting churches. As a part of this church planting group, our goal is that as Mosaic Church gets established, we would be able to partner with Grace to plant our first daughter church by 2019.

This journey has just started and we have a long and hard road ahead of us, but we are confident that God will be with us and will empower us with his Holy Spirit to use us to make an impact in the Maple Grove area for God! If you are reading this and you would like to know how to pray for us or if you are interested in joining the launch team or becoming a financial partner, I would LOVE to talk with you! Please email me or use the contact link to reach out.

Our whole desire is that we would make Jesus famous and help people in the suburbs know that its ok to not be ok. Because here’s the reality: we are ALL broken and hurting and in need of a Savior! But God is going to use us broken people to form his beautiful Mosaic. We want to plant a church that plants churches. We want to help people love God, serve others, and help make disciples who make disciples. We would love your prayers as we launch this church and as we dream big dreams. Its all about Jesus and building His Church. We are just excited to be a part of what God is doing here in the Twin Cities.  

Check out our new church’s website here: MOSAIC CHURCH

Thanks friends,

Erik