Relationships! Relationships! Relationships!

At our denomination’s annual conference this year there was a lot of talk about evangelism. Not surprising, as that is primary the mission of the church. I was struck by the many creative ways that different congregations were going about that mission. For example:

  1. We have a church plant in Hawaii that meets in a park by the ocean, and partners with a surf shop to offer free surfing lessons.
  2. One pastor regularly breakfasts at the local diner, she he can meet and get to know folks in the neighborhood.
  3. Another church, during the winter months, floods an area nearby to create a skating rink for the community. They also visit the local laundromat and offer to pay for people to do their laundry.
  4. A Chinese American pastor has started a ministry to visiting Asian students and faculty at the local college.
  5. One of our pastors has written a book about his experience doing prison ministry.

It strikes me that there is one thing that all these strategies have in common –they all involve building relationships. That’s how the church grows, and no amount of advertising will replace it. If we want others to catch the vision of the Christian life, we must be willing to go out and meet them where they are. We must be in relationship with them. We must care about them.

Lutheran Via de Cristo puts it this way: Make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ. So, who is the person in your life that you can befriend? (I am asking myself as well).

For more about relationships see:

Servant Relationships

Prayerful Relationships

It’s All About Relationships

God is Bigger

Recently I attended a Lutheran Via de Cristo retreat weekend. While there, I learned some new Christian songs. This one touched my heart. Whatever is going on in your life today, you can be sure that God is big enough to handle it for you!

For more music from Via de Cristo retreats, see these posts:

Only a Shadow

Have You Seen Jesus?

Make Me A Channel of Your Peace

Waiting is Worthwhile

I mentioned in my previous post that I recently attended a Via de Cristo retreat weekend. At the beginning of each weekend, participants are told, “don’t judge the weekend until it is finished.” Things that seem uncomfortable or maybe confusing become clear as time passes. In other words, WAIT, get the full picture before you make a decision.

I realized that this is good advice about many things in life. When we prejudge a person, or an event, we often get it wrong. I can think of people who didn’t impress me at our first meeting, who became friends with much to appreciate. I have had work environments that started out feeling uncomfortable but became nurturing with time and attention. In the book of John, we read:

“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment. “John 7:24

In other words, don’t make a determination when the information you have is superficial. Be patient. Sit with it a while. See how things play out. Pray for God to open your eyes so that you can see His will. Keep your heart open, too! Our Lord is full of surprises! Don’t miss out on a blessing because you didn’t wait.

“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. “Psalm 27:14

For more about Lutheran Via de Cristo see:

Vineyard Via de Cristo — Some History

What’s My Ideal?

A Via de Cristo Prayer of Confession and Forgiveness

Vineyard Via de Cristo history #3

In the Bible, the image of plants is often used to convey a message to us about how God raised up a people for Himself. Like all good farmers and landscapers, God knows the value of fertile soil. Seeds are planted where they will be able to flourish and grow and yield fruit– where they can sink down roots and take in the nutrients and moisture needed to spread and be what they can be at their best.

As I think about the future of Via de Cristo, I think about the soil in which we are planted. I rejoice in the many layers of good, rich dirt which will give us the strength we need to carry this method and message forward–through all the trials, difficulties and successes we will have.

The topsoil, if you will, is our brothers and sisters in Rainbow Via de Cristo (now Living Stones Via de Cristo). This is where many of us first came to know this movement and what it is about. Here is where we felt God’s grace and love in a way we never had before. Here is where we forged lasting and deep friendships with Christian brothers and sisters. This is an important place for us.

But vineyards require a lot of nutrients, and our roots sink even deeper through Rainbow to the national Via de Cristo movement– back to the folks in Miami and Iowa who stepped out in faith many years ago because they were convinced that God was doing a new thing in the Lutheran Church.

And our roots go even deeper — to the island of Majorca after WWII and a group of Spanish Catholics who developed a short course in Christianity to excite and encourage lay people to walk the walk of a committed Christian.

tAnd deeper yet–our roots touch the soil that is the Church — the Body of Christ on earth. Nothing we are and nothing we do can be any good if it is not rooted in the Church.

Finally our roots sink until they come to rest in the most fertile soil of all — the Living Word of God that is Jesus the Christ. He is the source of all our strength.

Because we are so rooted, we know that Vineyard Via de Cristo will produce branches. It will bear fruit. It will become a splendid vine. Not because of who we are, but because of whose we are.

For more on Lutheran Via de Cristo see:

What is Via de Cristo?

Remembering My Via De Cristo Weekend

My Via de Cristo Experience

Vineyard Via de Cristo — Some History

I am part of a lay movement in the Lutheran Church called Via de Cristo, as are a number of the ladies who have been authors on this blog. I recently came across a talk my husband had given at the inception of Vineyard Via de Cristo ( — this group broke off from another Via de Cristo group called Rainbow (now Living Stones) in order to expand the movement geographically. Via de Cristo holds retreats for Christian men and women with the goal of helping them learn to be leaders in their home congregations.

Today is one of those happy/sad movements that punctuate our lives as individuals, as we leave the Rainbow Via de Cristo community in order to form a new group. For those of us who are parents, we vividly remember the passages of our children as they started school, or graduated from school– as we watched their confirmations or saw them go off to their first proms. All of these were times when we were filled with happiness and pride in their progress and sadness in knowing things would never be the same.

Those happy/sad feelings are on both sides of the situation, of course. No matter how interesting or challenging or invigorating new circumstances may seem, we always feel some concern, some anxiety, when we leave the security of the known for the insecurity of the future. We’re steeping out and counting on what went before to be the foundation and strength we need to carry on.

For more about change see:

Life Changes

How the Reformation Changed the Environment

Fanning the Flame #10 Continued … Creating a Culture for Change

to be continued ….

After the Weekend, Last Chapter

Sometimes God wants stretch us by trying something new or a little outside of our comfort zone. That happened to me years ago when my husband was the chairman of our church fundraising committee. He asked me if I would chair the communications subcommittee and I agreed, imagining I would be writing newsletter articles, bulletin inserts, and other things like that. When the fundraiser we hired arrived to brief us on our duties, I was astounded to learn that what my committee was REALLY responsible for was coming up with a logo for the campaign, designing a brochure, and organizing several large mailings — all on a very tight time schedule! I sat through the meeting in a daze and afterwards I told Terry, “I don’t think I can do this.” Then I calmed down and got to work. My basic tactic was to find people who were good at the things I wasn’t. Two of our skilled in computer graphics brainstormed with me and we came up with a logo and a theme for the brochure. I could handle the writing. Then I recruited a nice, detail-oriented person and turned full responsibility for the mailings over to her. Everything was completed on time and the finished brochure turned out really well. Completing this project required the use of a number of gifts I have like leadership (taking responsibility for getting the job done); discernment (recognizing what different people could do well); and encouragement (asking others to use their gifts). I discovered I did have the ability to get the work done, I just needed to worry less and trust God more.

In conclusion, I’d like to leave you with a little power phrase — “I’m not called to do everything, but I am called to do something.” God has called each of us to do his work in our own environment– at home, in our congregations, in the work place. Don’t be foolish and try to do everything in every place. This will lead to frustration, burnout and failure. Instead be wise. Pray. Study and pursue your own gifts and talents. When he does call, be ready to answer, “Here I am, send me.”

What Happens After the Weekend part 2

After a Via de Cristo weekend we’re usually eager to leap into action, but we need to remember that Christian action must be accompanied by piety and study or our Christian life will not maintain a good balance.

First and foremost, we must pray. All of us, as part of our Christian walk, should continually ask God to lead us to the ministry opportunities that are both appropriate for us and pleasing to Him. In the book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul says:

“We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which he prepared in advance for us to do.”

Isn’t that exciting? God already has a plan for each of us, but if we don’t take the time to listen for His voice we may never discover what it is.

That doesn’t mean we can never be spontaneous. I remember once I was at a church council meeting when the newsletter was being discussed. It had been published sporadically and one member suggested we just discontinue it. Well, I really enjoyed getting the newsletter and I like to write, so the Holy Spirit only had to nudge me once. I volunteered to be the editor and did it for quite a few years. However, often we don’t feel so clearly led. If you are not sure, take some time to pray before rushing into a new area of service. There was the time, years ago, when the Via de Cristo community decided to try putting together a Co-ed weekend (up to this point, all the weekends had been either solely for men or solely for women). We knew that adding an extra weekend to the schedule would increase the need for team members, and our first thought was how fun and interesting it would be to serve together. After praying about it, we both realized the timing was wrong. Our daughter Kate, was coming home from her year as an exchange student in Germany around that time, and we needed to reconnect with her and help her with things like getting a drivers license and visiting colleges. God was calling us to put that responsibility first, so we decided not to serve on a team for a while.

For more about prayer see:

Beginning the Day with Prayer

Pray Without Ceasing

Learning to Pray by James Martin, SJ–Book Review

Stay tuned for study .

After the Weekend, or What Next?

In the years since this blog was started, a number of authors have posted about their experiences on a Via de Cristo (Lutheran retreat weekend). The weekend is designed to motivate Christians to become leaders who make a difference in the environments where God has placed them. Here’s a talk I wrote many years ago about what should/could happen after the weekend.

How did you feel after your weekend? If you’re like most people, you returned to your congregation full of enthusiasm and with an increased desire to devote your energies to serving Christ. That’s what’s supposed to happen, right? But how does this play out in reality? Some of the possibilities are not so good. Let me give you a few examples.

  1. You stop by the Pastor’s office and tell him that you want to serve and you’re willing to do anything. He is thrilled because the Church Council is in dire need of a treasurer. You’ve never done that sort of thing before, but you agree. After all, the Pastor suggested it, and how hard can it be? Three months later, the records are in a muddle, bills aren’t being paid on time, and you are embarrassed and humiliated by your failure. Someone else has to step in to straighten things out and you vow to never take on a church office again!
  2. You catch the president of the congregation one Sunday in the narthex. “I want to help” you tell him. “What job do you have for me?” He looks surprised and mumbles something along the lines of …”ah… well… let me think about that and get back to you. He never does. You feel hurt and disillusioned and withdraw from congregational activities.
  3. You raise your hand and volunteer for every project and committee that comes along. By the end of the year you’re exhausted, burned out and telling yourself, “I really need a break from all this church stuff.”

I don’t mean to discourage you, but these things happen. The have happened, in one way or another to people I know and to me. So, what’s wrong with the picture? How can you avoid these pitfalls?

…. to be continued …..

For more about Lutheran Via de Cristo see:

What is Via de Cristo?

m=Remembering My Via De Cristo Weekend

My Via de Cristo Experience

A Spanish Birthday Song?

As I’m writing this post, my husband and a member of our congregation are attending a Lutheran Via de Cristo weekend. In prayer for that retreat, I read through the Pilgrim’s Guide, a booklet of prayers, songs, and psalms that is given out to all first time attendees. One of the songs is Las Mananitas, a traditional Spanish song that’s used in Mexico as a sort of “Happy Birthday.” It’s also sung on other occasions such as Mother’s Day and the Feast Day of the Lady of Guadalupe. On Via de Cristo weekend, team members sing it on Sunday morning to awaken the first-timers. What a blessed way to start the day!

The composer is not known, and since it has a long history, there are many different lyrics and variations. Here’s one version:

For other songs used on Via de Cristo weekends see:

Just A Closer Walk With Thee

Wind, Wind Blow on Me

Lord I Lift Your Name on High

All You Ever Wanted to Know About Banners part 2

Banners can create a worshipful atmosphere by helping to focus our thoughts on a theme prior to the service. An arrangement of flowers is beautiful, but even the simplest banner can speak a thousand words and can facilitate meditative thoughts where flowers remain silent. I am reminded of my friend, Mary, who said on her Via de Cristo retreat weekend every time she entered the chapel, her eyes were drawn to the black and white banner which revealed the face of Christ to her.

Banners can help to change a multipurpose area into a worship space. If a church is meeting in a multipurpose building, banners can be used to cover notice boards or posters used by other organizations to prevent unnecessary distraction. This is certainly the case on a retreat weekend when a chapel is created in a cabin or empty room.

People with artistic talent feel that banner-making is one way God uses their skill. Not everyone is gifted as a musician or speaker, but they can contribute to the worship experience in this way. Sometimes we forget that when the tabernacle was made, God actually provided creative skills as a spiritual gift to enhance the beauty of the sanctuary. In Exodus, chapter 30 we read:

“He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers — all of them master craftsmen and designers.”

Banners last a long time. They can be passed on and used for different purposes. Often banners will be donated to a new church start up or a retreat organization like Via de Cristo to enhance their worship experience.

Working together on a banner can bind people together. A small group can work as a banner team. Each banner needs careful thought, study, prayer and a range of skills. Even craft-challenged people can participate! Some people will function better in an activity focused small group than the more conventional study or prayer group.

From Psalm 20 verse 5:

:We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God.”