Cutting Through the Chaos to Listen

By: Deron Vaupel, Ministry Administrator

seagullMy house is pretty loud. That’ll happen with a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old. Hourly nonsensical screaming, arguing with each other, and songs randomly being sung at the top of their lungs are the norm. Trying to cut through the noise can be challenging, but it’s often necessary because important things need to be communicated: go brush your teeth, don’t sit on your brother, and many other statements I never really expected I’d have to say.

Psalm 46 contains a pretty well-known command: Be still and know that I am God. What’s truly fascinating is that the rest of the chapter (just 11 verses) describes absolute chaos. In the midst of that, God is calling us to ‘be still’ and refocus our understanding that He is exalted, He is in control.

I’ve never had an easy time listening to God. My mind too quickly jumps to everything else that’s on my list. That’s even more true when I’m stressed or anxious, when there’s a lot of chaos around me. But as I’ve thought through what it means to really listen, to take that time to have my focus shifted back to what’s important, I find a great reminder right in front of me. As I try to cut through the chaos to get my boys to listen to me, I will use those times to also, if even briefly, listen for those quick reminders from God that He’s in control.

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Connecting With And Knowing Jesus

By: Vince Miller, Teaching Pastor
knowing Jesus“When he was at the table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.”  –Luke 24: 30-35
It would not have been strange for a few Passover pilgrims to join up along the road while traveling. In this passage, Cleopas and an unnamed disciple are in an intense discussion, walking along the way to Emmaus. Given the weekend’s events — the crucifixion of Jesus — this conversation was remarkably full of emotion and question. Little did they know, the risen Christ was walking and talking with them. They paused for the evening and invited Jesus, the stranger, to stay with them, as was their custom.
Jesus throughout this whole experience pretends to be unaware of the recent events. And Cleopas goes on to explain their understanding of Jesus, yet the disciples seemed to understand everything explained except the living fact that Jesus was right before them. But as Jesus breaks bread, this moment of devotion opens their “eyes.” So why? Clearly it had something to do with their communion that changed what they knew and how they connected to Jesus. This is because there is a cavernous difference between knowing about someone and truly knowing someone. Connecting those two sets of knowledge gave the men a glimpse of the risen Lord!
DO THIS TODAY: Connect with Christ in a deeper way today, not just with knowledge about but relational knowledge.

Fresh Coffee

By: Mark Deisinger

Where I work we have a newly-opened café area. My employers believe that what software writers do is turn coffee into code, so they provide coffee and a few other amenities to us. Some other outfit keeps things stocked and functional. It’s a nice arrangement, though the coffee and donut table at enCompass wins, hands down, for friendliness and, let’s be honest, because of the donuts.

Caffeine does unpleasant things to me, but when I head downstairs in the morning to get a cup of decaf, I always see this sign, which I have arranged just so for a photo:

Fresh Coffee pic

Delightful and reassuring, no? Yes. But also, sometimes, just completely wrong. In fact, sometimes the sign is dusty from not being touched for weeks. It just sits there, advertising the availability of fresh coffee, when in reality it has no clue whether the coffee is fresh or not. The sign is not smart or informed, and is not reliable.

Today as I write this was one of those days when the sign was … mistaken. I got a cup of decaf (it’s the one with the orange proboscis), but when I took a sip I immediately and fully knew, as much as I’ve ever known anything, that the coffee was brewed the previous afternoon and had been sitting in the decanter for roughly 16 or 17 billion hours. All of the aromatic oils had dissipated or chemically changed into nasty, spiteful, cynical molecules with grudges. Oh, and trust me, those of you who can ingest actual caffeine, decaffeinated coffee doesn’t really need any help in the “being bitter” department.

I’ve learned to be more careful about how much I trust the sign. Some things just aren’t what they advertise themselves to be. You can certainly come up with your own examples. We all know that department stores that have sales all the time aren’t really having sales; they’re just playing with pricing to draw interest. Movie trailers are designed to hide flaws. I’ve heard it said that the goal of dating someone is to conceal information until it’s too late.

But most of us need a jolt in the morning, for one reason or another. I don’t think this is an accident. I think it explains why there is dew on the grass, and why sunrises can be so beautiful, and why the presence of newborns is refreshing.

The Israelites, after escaping Egypt, were given manna every morning (and a double portion the day before the Sabbath) to get them through the wilderness. That was a gift direct from God’s own hand, and it kept the people from starving. It’s also, of course, a lesson for us all that God stands ready to provide for us on a daily basis. Lamentations 3:22-23 says this (NIV):

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

His compassions are new every morning. If you put a sign in front of His compassions that said “Fresh Brewed This AM,” that sign would never be lying to you.

But that’s kind of half the story. Just like I have to go to the café to get my decaf every day, the Bible hints quite a lot that we need to go to Him every day, too, to stay in touch and get some blessing action. I’m not a particularly stellar practicer of Christian disciplines, but I know they’re important – private and communal prayer, private and communal worship, fellowship with other believers, acts of service and giving, and daily devotions.

I’m reminded of something a pastor of mine once said to me, speaking about a meeting he had with another person (he did not say who the other person was, and I don’t even know if I knew the man). The man he was meeting with told him, speaking of his own spiritual state, “Pastor, I’m starving, but I’m not hungry.” What I believe he meant was that he knew, intellectually perhaps, that he desperately needed to be closer to God, to partake of the compassions that God had laid out for him, to eat of the spiritual food that was provided for him every day. Sadly, he didn’t feel the urge to partake. His heart had gone cold toward God. A sad state of affairs, robbing him of the benefits of having a close relationship with the One who loves him best.

But there is hope, for that man and for us, all of us who have dry periods in our relationships with God and with others. Ezekiel chapter 37, which I will not quote here but you should go read right now, is the scene with the dry bones. God raises the dry bones up and gives them flesh and breath again so that they once again live. He is, after all, the God of resurrection. Go get some fresh coffee.

What Are My Kids Learning?

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By: Amber Harder, Communications Specialist

 

It was Sunday morning and I was tired. It had been a particularly hard night with the baby, and not just that night but the 100 nights prior to it too. The thought of making it to church early to attend 9am Connect seemed overwhelming, exhausting, and next to impossible.

We broke the news to our kids over breakfast. “We’re not going to make it to 9am Connect today. We’ll just be going to church today.”

This did not go over well. What ensued was a mixture of whining, debate, and heart-felt promises of “I’ll get ready right away if we can go to Connect!”

I looked at Zac. He looked at me. Our kids were begging us to go to church. In the grand scheme of things, this was a really good problem to have. So, with the energy of a team breaking from their huddle, we finished breakfast and scattered to our separate corners of the house to get ready and GO!

I am grateful that my kids like going to church. I appreciate that enCompass has a nurturing, energetic, Bible-based place for my kids to soak u

 

p what it means to follow Christ. My oldest, Feven, is learning amazing information about the Bible and its history through her 9am kidConnect group. I’m in awe of what she tells us on the car ride home and throughout the week. Recently I shared a Bible passage with her from the book of Luke and she said, “Mom, did you know that Luke wrote Luke?!?” Incredible. My 6-year-old is learning who wrote specific books in the Bible!

My daughter is also learning what it means to be in community. On one of our car rides home from church recently she said, “Mom, some of my friends and I have been talking. You know there’s a Dad’s Night Out group and a Mom’s Night Out group? Well, we think there should be a Girl’s Night Out group for me and my friends. We were thinking maybe on a Wednesday. We want to build community.” Yes, my 6-year-old actually used those words “build community.”

Through her experience at church, she sees the adults in our congregation building community by checking in, praying for one another, and spending time with each other. She sees that as important, and it’s further emphasized in her Sunday mornings at church with her Club E! class. Cate has stressed to her students the importance of building community, and they have taken it to heart and are looking for more ways they can do so.

 

I love it. I love everything about this. I’m grateful God is working through our church to teach my children what it means for them to follow Him – both in their personal lives and in their social lives.

…And That’s How You Make Lemonade

lemonsBy: Deron Vaupel, Ministries Administrator

Just like any other August, I expected our conversation to be about budget revisions for the coming fiscal year, but I was very mistaken. Instead, I was hearing from Kevin about his new job with Young Life, and my mind started going several different directions. What does that mean for me? What does that mean for enCompass? What time frame? What needs to happen in the next few months? How much of that do I need to do? What other questions need to be answered? What haven’t I thought of yet? That all went racing through my mind over the next several days.

I’ve had similar conversations in the past, but this one was a bit different. In some form or another, Kevin’s been my boss longer than any other supervisor. I’ve learned a lot from him and grown to appreciate several aspects of his leadership style. I remained a bit numb for the rest of the week, but as I began having conversations with other staff and people from the congregation, the numbness started to turn to hope, expectation, and excitement.

Change is an inevitable part of life. How we handle those changes says a lot about our character. That applies not only to individuals, but also to organizations. enCompass is a church of doers, and in my conversations, that doer attitude really came out. I found that there were several other people asking the same questions and taking the same steps to prepare for what’s ahead. There are many new faces around on Sunday mornings, and that’s especially encouraging because if I were the one showing up to a church right around the time a significant leadership transition was happening, I’d seriously consider moving to the next one on my list. In the past few weeks, a significant number of people, especially young adults, have stepped forward to say they’re invested in the future of enCompass by becoming Church Community Members. Connect Groups are going well, exciting things are happening with Childrens’ and Student Ministries, and the teaching series that are coming up are very intriguing. There’s a lot happening that gives me hope.

Yes, there’s a lot of work to do. There’s a lot of uncertainty. But in it all, we’re called to keep coming back to the truth that a congregation isn’t solely defined by the identity of the lead pastor…it’s about how the members of the congregation use their individual gifts and abilities to follow God’s call for the sake of his Kingdom. From all I’ve seen in my years at enCompass, we’re ready to take this next step. The essential thing in approaching the transition is to keep coming back to the mission and values of the church, asking how our unique abilities contribute to God using enCompass in the world around us.

Hearts to Serve

By: Matthew Deitner

Hearts to ServeI don’t want to alarm anyone but enCompass seems to have a problem. As problems go it’s a good one to have. From the very beginning we had made up our minds that we wanted to be a church that impacted the local and global community positively for the Kingdom of God. We intended to do that through both the time that we spend serving and the gifts that the church receives. The problem that we realized existed is that we lacked a clear strategy for how to do exactly that; how do we determine what other ministries we partner with? How do we determine where God is calling us to build his Kingdom? How we do determine where we invest our time and money?

These are questions that we still may not be able to answer definitively. However, under the direction of Pastor Kevin and the church board a group of us have been meeting over the past 18 months to start diving into these questions and attempt to come up with a better framework for thinking through some of these questions. Stan Sveen, Brenda Wetzel, Curt Rosen, Caren Nicholson, and myself have committed to doing some reading (When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, if you need some recommendations for your own library) and talking through these questions and others to determine where our time and money is best invested in impacting the local and global community for the Kingdom of God. As we have gone through this process we’ve identified 5 main principles that we believe should guide our church as we explore new opportunities.

1. Partnership
Ever tried taking on a huge project on your own? How did that turn out for you? In my experience it doesn’t end well. That’s why we want to be committed to being in a partnership with those we serve. The basic way we understand partnership is that we and the people we serve are both bringing something to the relationship. It’s not a relationship where we give and they take. And it’s not merely a financial transaction.
In my work as a chaplain I always look for someone else to have some “skin in the game.” They need to have just as much invested in a successful outcome as I do. This accomplishes two crucially important things. One, it keeps me from burning out. Two, it adds some dignity into the process for those we are serving.
For these two reasons we are looking for any impactful opportunity we have to be a partner with those we serve.

2. Engagement
This is where the congregation as a whole comes in. We want the church community members of enCompass to be excited and involved with what we are supporting. Because let’s face it, it’s kind of embarrassing when you’re telling a story of something you’re excited about and nobody seems to care. Things seem to work better when we are working in areas that excite us.

3. Champion/sponsor
We also believe that for any new opportunities we have to impact the world there needs to be a leader. As a former pastor I can say that it’s not fun to try and lead every single ministry by yourself (see principle number 1, partnership). We want to see church community members step up and lead the things they are excited about leading. We want to see people “champion” the cause that they are passionate for.

4. Fills a Gap
We start by asking questions. What people group is currently underserved? What need does our community (locally and globally) have that is going unmet? Will our support make a meaningful difference?
We don’t want to be a community that does what everyone else is doing simply because it’s the latest headline. We want to take a closer look at who isn’t being served and how we could make the greatest impact.

5. Serves Materially poor
Finally, we want to serve those who are materially poor. There’s a lot of poverty in the world in the emotional and spiritual realm and we don’t want to ignore that. But we have come to a belief that addressing the emotional or spiritual poverty of a person begins with alleviating some of the stress that comes with being materially poor. I come into contact with people daily who are in need of the things that some of us take for granted such as food and shelter. It’s nearly impossible to start talking to them about the Kingdom of God while they are still lacking the bottom half of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Our hope and belief is that as we work to alleviate some of these needs people will hear the Gospel and start to move towards emotional and spiritual wholeness.

So that’s what we’ve been discussing. Over the next four weeks we’ll be discussing some of these principles in Sunday Connect groups as well as the morning messages. We want to hear from you. What principles make sense to you? What, if anything, do you see as important to add to this list? Where do you personally feel the urge to make an impact in the Kingdom of God?

 

Mirror Neurons and Role Models

ice cream coneBy: Alex Blackwell, Student Ministry Pastor

I’ve been fascinated lately with mirror neurons. I was having a conversation a couple months ago with a group of parents. This is when I learned about mirror neurons. We were talking about how incredible it is that our little babies were able to look at our faces, see our smiles and smile back. I can look at a hundred things people around me do, and there’s no way my body translates it in the same way – knowing exactly what muscles to use to mimic and do the same thing. “It’s almost instinctive,” I said. Another dad across the room smiled at me and said, “it’s mirror neurons.” He went on to explain that there are neurons in the brain specifically wired to help the body mirror what someone else is doing when they see it. Gabriel can look at my smile and smile back, without even thinking about it, because these neurons help his face muscles do what they have to do to form a smile, instead of a frown or a hundred other faces. There’s no trial and error to figure it out. It just happens. He will continue to grow into a boy and a young man, and learn how to be so with the help of mirror neurons. Fascinating.

A few weeks ago we had a student ministries event getting Nelson’s ice cream. When we walked in to the room we would sit down in to enjoy our MOUNDS of ice cream, I noticed what was very likely a date outside the window. I looked up at the students at our event and I started making up the voices and words that the couple was conversing about. Very innocent, I assure you – nothing against the couple. I said things like “MMM I love ice cream nom nom nom” (in a low manly voice), followed by “yeah I can tell it’s all over your face” (in a high-pitched girl voice). The students giggled, and maybe even laughed a little – but there was no way they were going to partake in the voice-over game. Somehow the subject changed, undoubtedly one of them said something to shift the focus away from doing something that may even slightly risk their embarrassment. What if what they came up with wasn’t all that funny to the rest of us? A while later we started cleaning up, and got up to leave. As I started walking toward the door, I heard the voice of one of our students playing the voice-over game with the couple one last time before we left – something about the girl being embarrassed with the idea of being seen in public with a guy with ice cream all over his face (the guy didn’t actually have any ice cream on his face). The student risked embarrassment, but also took the risk, meeting my original hopes that shared experience and comfortability would grow in the midst of our small growing community of students.

This story is a metaphor for the greater experience of modeling good character, a strong faith, and continual growth for the students at enCompass. I am thankful for a team of solid volunteers who have been showing up in the lives of our students, through one on one experiences and at our events. I am thankful for those beyond our volunteer team, in the broader enCompass community, who model community, desire for growth, and a heart to serve the city, country, and world around us. Whether with the help of mirror neurons or with help beyond what mirror neurons can provide, I believe, because of our great models, that we are poised to see significant growth among our students.

Teamwork in Marriage

nestBy: Amber Lynch

My Dad grew up in functioning, but VERY dysfunctional family. There was substance abuse, physical and emotional abuse, infidelity and a whole lot of anger. As my Dad witnessed these struggles, he prayed for a spouse that loved him just as much as he loved her. I’m happy to say that my Dad found that spouse and he and my Mom have been happily married for 41 years.

After hearing about how my Dad prayed for my Mom, I decided I should also pray for my perfect teammate. Little did I know I had already crossed paths with that teammate, when I was five years old, at Little Lambs Pre-school in Hugo, MN. After 14 years of marriage, I will say that it feels like five minutes. Steve will joke that it feels like five minutes…underwater (I really hope he’s joking).

We purchased our first home together in Northeast Minneapolis with the intent of diving in and making it our own. We refinished hardwood floors, painted, updated landscaping, remodeled a bathroom and a kitchen, as well as many other updates. Through all of these projects, we would work tirelessly…day and night, after work and the entire weekend. In order to get us through these brutal days of hard work, we would name a “Most Valuable Lynch” or MVL. It was a way to make days of physical work more fun and a way to entice the other one to get the job done.

In the middle of our kitchen remodel, Steve once visited Home Depot eight times in one day. Without a doubt, he was MVL that day. I remember crouching over all day in an attic (but soon to be bedroom) edging hardwood floors and you guessed it, I earned MVL that day. While these projects were hard work and at times very stressful, there were a lot of laughs, a lot of high-fives and a lot of hugs. Teamwork was critical to our success and when one was dragging, the other would somehow muster up enough energy to help the other one cross the finish line for the day. Whether it was a run to Home Depot, making lunch, or letting someone be the first to “shower up” for the night, these were the days when I was so thankful that God gave me the ultimate teammate in Steve.

Though our focus is much different these days, I am still incredibly thankful for my teammate who provides for our family. Or, when he can see that I have had my fill of negotiating with a four year old, steps in to take over to give me a little relief. I think he also appreciates it when he gets into a vehicle that has been filled with gas for him, comes home to a freshly mowed lawn, or takes a night off of bedtime duty to go play soccer or basketball with friends.

With teamwork in marriage, we are living God’s promise, “Two are better than one…for if they fall, one will lift up the other.” Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10. And each time when Steve picks me up, I wonder how I could be so fortunate, but I guess I should stop wondering and just say thank you.

NOTE: Ask us which house project we called “The Marriage Tester”.

Take It Easy

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By: Kevin Thomas, Lead Pastor

Ah, summer. Birds chipping in the morning, warm sunshine in the afternoon, quiet conversations in the evenings.

Ahhh!  It’s summer.  In the midst of all the chirping, sunning and chatting, my brain races to track the various bunny trails of my life’s endeavors—phone calls to return, emails to compose, sermons to write, meetings to set-up, events to prepare, gatherings to attend, conversations to continue, meals to plan, drives to coordinate, repairs to complete, outdoor projects to start, appointments to schedule, social opportunities to initiate, interruptions to navigate.

We all want to relax: to take deep breaths, enjoy the people around us, and soak in a deeper sense of God’s peace. Yet it’s quite obvious that we’re really not very good at it. I often find myself reflexively growling at the on-going responsibilities and ever-present interruptions that flare up in my over-booked brain and over-loaded life.

Can’t the world just stop and allow me to catch my breath for a moment?!?

We don’t have the power to stop the world. Instead we have to pull off an even more astonishing miracle: to stop the noisy, frenetic, impatient, panicky world that spins inside of each of us.

This isn’t going to be easy. We’re far more comfortable with over-packed schedules and constant demands. It makes us feel important. It also makes us rather miserable human beings. God didn’t create us to go full-tilt each day. It’s simply not humane. He created us to work diligently, then rest artfully. Even He took a full day off every once in a while. (e.g. take a glance at Genesis 2:1-3)

Over the next four Sundays (June 18 & 25, July 2 & 9) you’re invited to join me as we attempt to “Take it Easy”. This sermon series is designed to teach me (maybe you, too) how to unwind from a stressed out life and discover new pathways to personally and patiently enjoying God’s goodness.

It won’t be easy to “Take it Easy”. Yet, if we’re going to truly enjoy the summer ahead, it’s probably exactly what we need.

Growing Through Connect Groups

By: Deron Vaupel, Ministry Administrator

In my time at enCompass, I’ve had the privilege to be a part of several different Connect Groups – Dads Group, Men’s Groups, House Groups, Sunday Morning Connect, etc. Of all the different ways I’ve been a part of the enCompass community, my involvement in these groups has probably been the most meaningful. I’m generally someone who prefers interactions in smaller groups of people, and the relationships that have been built in these different groups have been quite formative in many different areas. A couple examples:

For the past several months, I’ve been getting together with other dads from enCompass every Tuesday night to discuss a book about raising life-ready kids. There’s something special about younger dads coming together with ‘seasoned veterans’ to talk about our mistakes, successes, challenges, and hopes (not to mention the interspersed YouTube videos). We’ve learned a lot from each other about different ways to teach our kids and how to incorporate our faith into the day-to-day of parenting. I might even go so far as to say that we’re all (at least a little bit) better dads because of this group. This group has been a great respite for me and a source of a lot of wisdom.

Sunday morning Connect Groups always have a lot to offer. While the topics vary quite a bit, following along with the sermons or focusing on more topical content, the discussions are always rousing. There’s usually a range of generations represented, which means a lot of different perspectives when it comes to interpreting scripture. There’s something unique about young adults and retired people interacting over topics of faith. Over the past year, I’ve had the privilege of leading several of these sessions, and I’m always challenged and energized as a result of the time we spend together.

Connect Groups exist at enCompass to give people different opportunities to grow in their relationships with God and others. Along with the other ministries of enCompass, they’re guided by 3 core values: Belong, Grow, Serve, and over the years, I’ve experienced each of these values to varying degrees. For me, when it comes to building a meaningful relationship with God and others, I’m not sure there’s any better way.

Even though some groups are wrapping up for the season, my encouragement to you is this: If it’s been awhile since you’ve been a part of a group, start thinking through what it might look like to join something in the near future. If you’ve never been a part of a Connect Group, see what will be a good fit for you. Or you could even consider what it might look like to lead one yourself. You may have the perfect idea for something new, and the passion to make it happen – and who knows…there might be someone else looking to connect in the same way. If you fall into one of these categories, I’d love to talk to you more. Click here to get in touch with me.