January 2015

Dear Friends of our Good Shepherd,

Good Shepherd is on a mission: Living and Sharing Jesus. I invite you to embark on a journey of discovery, exploring how we live out both sides of the coin of God’s mission for us. We already have the resources to begin (or continue) this journey with renewed vigor and focus. The challenge – and this is a perennial challenge, for me and for other leaders in the church – is to keep the focus on what matters: to keep a laser focus on living and sharing Jesus.

Like so many families, my family struggles with this kind of focus. We are pulled in so many directions: this fall, my children are involved in cross country, dance, Kantorei, Scholastic Bowl, a school musical, Key Club, and more. Mindy is involved in strategic planning for the RPS district. I am involved with Transform Rockford, and all the church related areas, such as the Neighborhood Association, and the Synod’s Congregational Life Committee. All of those different interests are good, but they can also cause stress and burnout, and cut our family time short. Other families are in similar situations. In this context, we do not necessarily need more programs and activities, but rather we need Sabbath rest: time to step back, retreat, rest, pray, listen, and spend time in caring conversation.

So, what’s the solution? While there is no easy solution, the lazer focus on mission is a step in the right direction. It’s a two pronged approach to living and sharing Jesus, using resources we already have but have neglected. First let us live Jesus through our identity as a Book of Faith congregation. Good Shepherd signed on as a Book of Faith congregation back in 2009, but we have not focused on this part of our identity. We have so many resources for diving into the Book of Faith: it is time to use those resources and engage with God’s word intentionally. With so many busy retired people in this congregation, it is crazy that we are not engaging them in a weekly morning Bible study. I am going to start a Tuesday morning Enter the Bible study, utilizing resources I already have and use. We engage in living Jesus through intentional prayer, reading, worship, and fellowship (including with our homebound and sick members): I intend to focus on equipping the congregation with these faith practices. I will also start a Thursday morning book club at Katie’s Cup, the Emergent Journey Book Club, which will explore books related to living and sharing Jesus.

Second, we not only live Jesus, we share Jesus. We do not only reach within, we reach out to our neighbors with the good news of Jesus Christ. I propose to focus on living Jesus as a LIFT congregation: Living Into the Future Together. This is a process passed by the Churchwide Assembly in 2011, but not lifted up enough. Again, we have the materials we need to reorient ourselves as a Book of Faith Congregation, Living Into the Future Together.

I propose to use Stephen Bouman’s book The Mission Table: Renewing Congregation and Community as a primary resource for the church council and congregation in 2015. As we take part in God’s mission of living and sharing Jesus, we join in “God’s reconciling and restoring action in the world.” To live and share Jesus faithfully and effectively in our time and place, we need to be grounded in faith, transformed by grace, and motivated by hope to reach out with the love of God in Jesus Christ to all our neighbors.

So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service.

2 Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is–what is good and pleasing and mature. (Rom 12:1-2 CEB)

God’s Work. Our Hands.

Pastor Eric Lemonholm

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