I Have Money – You Know The Needs #54

At Christ Church I put an announcement in the church bulletin: “The Career Group will begin on Sunday evening… To qualify be 20-30 and single.” The first time we met several things were immediately obvious:

  • Lots of singles wanted to get together.
  • The educational, vocational, financial mix was huge! From the Keebler Cookie Executive to the man who kept the shelves stocked in the grocery store to the elementary school teacher.
  • As we talked about what the group would like to do, four things were evident:
    1. The group wanted to meet weekly – speakers and discussions on a variety of subjects.
    2. Some would like serious Bible study.
    3. The group wanted a continual flow of activities they could do together.
    4. Without financial assistance, a few would not be able to afford what others would like to do.

I went to the Senior Minister and asked if funds were available for the group and if there could be additional funds to make it possible for everyone to participate in every activity. The answer: neither was available. He went on to say that, in life, there will always be people who could not participate in all of the activities. End of discussion.

Brent and Marcie Cameron knew that I was heading up the new career group. Soon after the group began, Brent said “Chuck, I have money, but I do not know where the needs are. You don’t have money, but you know where the needs are. Just let me know how much you need.” We talked about the needs of some of the people in Career Group…he smiled and repeated “just let me know how much you need”. Brent was a VP of McDonalds Hamburgers. Every McDonald’s outside of the US was under his jurisdiction.

I explained to The Career Group that a member of the church was making money available so everyone could participate in all of the group’s activities. If they had a need, let me know. When we went for a day to the Michigan Dunes State Park, or to eat in a Greek Restaurant, or to attend a concert, we could all go. I do not remember ever feeling that a person was taking advantage of the available financial help. So far as the group was concerned…we were The Career Group – one group!!! The group soon grew to about 100 singles meeting each Sunday evening – and for “specials” on a semi-regular basis.

I cannot remember how the “mechanics” worked. Sally Jo and I both remember that we frequently had Cameron money in our checking account. The checks were made payable to me, and therefore their gifts through me to the members of the group could not have been income tax deductible. The Cameron’s checks never needed to be large, but what a huge difference their giving made for everyone in the group.

Brent and Marcie understood that they were members of the Body of Christ, His Church, and they found joy in this fact: “if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously” – Romans 12:8

Brent and Marcie Cameron lived In Partnership With God. “Just let me know how much you need.”

Enabling The Body of Christ to Use Their Gifts #53

Living In Partnership With God means to me that, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, I will use my God-given gifts and abilities to enable others to develop and use their God given gifts and abilities. Fortunately people have different gifts – and my challenge is to help people to get into situations where they can develop and utilize what God has entrusted to them. Some people can be great teachers of children, others can be great teachers of adults. Some have the gift of organization, others have the gift of service. Some are very artistic, others can come up with new ideas. My challenge: to take the pieces of the puzzle and to put them together so that every person enjoys caring out their responsibility while growing as one of God’s unique individuals. It is sad when I misread a person or situation and try to fit a round peg into a square hole. When this happens, many people are negatively affected.

When I arrived at Christ Church of Oak Brook my job description included developing the Christian Education program (effective facility usage, curriculum selection, staffing) AND the development of small groups throughout a rapidly growing church, the leadership of Career Group (singles 20-35), leading two worship services each Sunday morning, preaching most Sunday evenings plus counseling, weddings, etc. The only way I could survive this situation was to build an organization and then to staff it with the right people in the right positions – about 200 of them!

Five months after I arrived the church would change from having 5 class rooms to 25 class rooms, from having 19 involved in the Sunday school program to having well over 100 people in a variety of roles.

At some point I met Roberta, a mother of two middle school children. Roberta, a no nonsense person, was sharp, quietly out-going, and she knew her Bible. Her husband had business travel almost every week. Before I could ask Roberta to consider teaching a class of fifth grade girls, I knew I should do everything possible to make all aspects of her teaching as “user-friendly” as possible.

Roberta would want to have excellent teacher education classes to help her sharpen her teaching skills. She would need to know who her regular substitute would be so the two could keep in contact – and who to call if her regular substitute was unavailable. I knew it would greatly help Roberta if most of the teaching supplies she would need were in one location at the church, organized and inventoried: paper of various kinds, easels, pencils, marking pens, dry erase markers, clay, tapes and glues, balloons, maps, posters, Bibles, audio-visual equipment – what in today’s would be a digital projection system, DVD’s of mission work, contemporary issues, the Holy Lands, etc. and CD’s of contemporary Christian music. Roberta would have an inventory list, confident that another person would keep the inventory stocked. And Roberta would need to know I would keep in touch with her and be available to her at any time.

With this organizational structure developing, it was much easier to say “Roberta, would you consider teaching a 5th grade girl’s Sunday school class? I believe you have the gifts and experience to do an incredible job, or I would not ask you to consider this. Yes, teaching will require a significant time commitment on your part I have worked to put the pieces together to make your teaching as easy as possible……. I will call you in a few days so we can talk further.”

Roberta accepted the position. Sally Jo has the recipes her class members brought with the cookies they had baked to Roberta’s home for a cookie party – parents invited!

The only hope I had of surviving the Christ Church challenge was to develop a system – to set programs in motion that could function on a day to day basis without me. I could not spend hours each week putting out brush fires.

As I work to enable others to use their gifts, I am using mine. As I live In Partnership With God I help to enable others to live In Partnership With God. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

For each of God’s children, life should be a rewarding challenge! Remember, not all rewards come on earth.

Unseen Church Member #52

The church of Jesus Christ consists of people. Though the Apostle Paul speaks often about the church, he never mentions a church building. In The Shack by William P. Young, Jesus says “It’s (the church) all about relationships and simply sharing life…being open and available to others around us. My church is all about people and life is all about relationships. You can’t build the church. It’s my job”.

Nancy Fritz was a member of CCOB, though few of the members had ever seen her. Nancy’s family was well known: Bill was an elder; their son was a tall, excellent basketball player and their daughter, a cheerleader at the high school. We did not see much of Edna, the mom, but she was a delight. A few months after meeting the family, I learned about Bill and Edna’s daughter, “little Nancy”. Nancy was 10 years old and 3’ tall. She could only be in a prone position. She had osteo-genisis imperfectus. Simply put, her bones would not harden and were very easily broken.

I soon went to visit Nancy, who was delighted to meet me. I still remember the wonderful smile on her normal size head. For her age, Nancy knew her Bible well and was more theologically astute than many adults. Edna had poured herself into Nancy, a very bright little girl. I can still see her smile but I could not see the ribs inside her small dress – ribs often broken by a sneeze or cough. Nancy’s arms and legs were misshapen from the many times they had broken and healed not quite straight.

Nancy’s joy was serving others. She could be gently rolled onto her side and held there with pillows. From this position she very carefully printed out notes of encouragement to people, and it was in this position she painted my Christmas tree ornament. The ornament shape was purchased from a craft store, a flat plywood cut-out of a woman dressed in old fashioned clothes. Nancy carefully painted the woman, front and back – red dress, white apron and bonnet – not great art work, but a very special gift to me.

Nancy asked me what she could do for the church. After a few minutes of give and take we came up with two ideas. She could keep the pencils in the pew racks sharpened – Edna would get an electric pencil sharpener and a couple young people would check the pencil points each Sunday after church and replace them with pencils sharpened the week before. And the second idea? The church had an extensive, cassette ministry. As soon as the preaching was finished the cassette duplicators would copy the master. When the people left the church, they could pick up a copy to share with friends or listen to themselves. The next Sunday many people returned their cassette and each week these would go to Nancy who would erase the contents with a small machine. The cassettes were then ready to re-use. Week after week she faithfully did her work well!

I asked Nancy what I, or the church, could do for her. She smiled and said, “Please serve me communion.” She said no one every had. After checking with Bill and Edna, the next Sunday several elders and other healthy (no colds, etc.) church members went to be with Nancy. When we walked into the living room, there was Nancy, lying on the floor under the edge of the grand piano. We all sat down around her, and together we sang, read the Scriptures, and celebrated communion together. After this, when communion was celebrated at church, many went to have communion with Nancy

One day Edna came to me obviously excited! She was pregnant! Total surprise!!! I, without a thought, responded with “Edna, this year little Nancy will die”. We looked at each other…both of us shocked at what I had just said! A few months later “little Nancy” caught pneumonia, and died. Again, both of us were stunned!

During the funeral: incredible thunder, lightening, and rain! This continued through the end of the service – when the sky cleared. After the service Edna came to me with a grin: “The thunder was for Nancy – she loved thunder! We went for the grave-side service in a bright, warm sun. And a few months later a baby boy was born.

“Little Nancy” lived In Partnership With God. She worshiped and served with a joyful heart. The church building meant nothing to Nancy! The church people…a whole different story.

The Church, His Body, All the Parts #51

Without the assurance of the provision of God’s guidance and resources, I would have been crazy to accept my assignment at Christ Church of Oak Brook. Here was a 7 year old church with an average attendance and membership of about 1000 people with only 19 teaching in the Sunday School – and a large, just completed education building. Here was a church where, apart from groups such as the trustees, elders, deacons, and the choir, there were only 2 other functioning groups, one being the youth group. The assignment: Build the Body of Believers through study and fellowship. This seemed to require identifying and training over 100 teachers for the Sunday School in five months, and identifying natural affinity groups through which needs could be met.

When carrying out a God assigned task, the leader must be confident he understands his assignment and be confident God will provide all of the resources needed including the leader’s knowledge, the experience gained through his previous God given assignments, the promised guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the “raw materials” needed: people, facility, money, and equipment. Hudson Taylor, founder of China Inland Mission put it this way: “God’s work, done in God’s way, never lacks for God’s supply.” This was Hudson Taylor’s experience – and this continues to be mine.

We must never deceive ourselves into thinking that the fulfilling of our assignment will be easy. The costs may be huge – sometimes including the lives of God’s people. Abraham’s challenges included dealing with Lot and waiting for the birth of Isaac. Moses struggled leading the Israelites in the desert. Joseph had his brothers and Pharaoh’s wife to contend with. Jesus lived through persecution and died carrying out God’s will. Stephen was stoned to death. Paul was ship wrecked and often imprisoned. Today Christians living in many countries of the world are persecuted and die while obeying God’s directives. Comparing my situation at CCOB to the situations other Christians face, a piece of cake.

The Bible teaches that His Body, the Church, contains all the necessary people – to whom He has given a variety of gifts and abilities. The apostle Paul wrote similar words to the churches in Corinth and Ephesus that he wrote to the church in Rome. “in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” Romans 5-8.

Let’s be real. Human beings, even with the best intentions, can distort God’s assignment – sometimes to make the assignment “easier, more realistic” or to accomplish personal desires. Getting God’s assignment correct may take considerable time in prayer by the committee or person challenged with the responsibility of the work to be done. “Lord, we must get this right! We ask for your wisdom –confident we will receive it.” This is not prayer to change the mind of God; this is prayer which recognizes that this is an assignment from Almighty God. Once the assignment is agreed upon, the person being giving the responsibility must be sure he understands and is willing to carry out the assignment. “Almighty God, I will do whatever you ask of me, knowing that my ability plus your resources cannot fail to accomplish what you are asking me to do. Lord, I need your peace.” This was precisely Gideon’s feelings. Lord, I will fight for you. I will risk my life and the lives of those who follow me if I am sure I have the assignment straight! OK Lord, fleece dry, ground wet, fleece wet, ground dry. Judges 6:36-40.

When I arrived at CCOB, my understanding of what the church was asking me to do and what I could see needed to be done matched, and I was at peace. I began not knowing many of the challenges ahead or the resources to be needed. In football, if a team cannot make progress running the ball, it may be able to pass – to mix running and passing, always remembering the objective. Each member of the team must understand and carry out each assignment. The football illustration breaks down in several ways, one being, in ministry the leader never punts! He may not see progress, then a little, perhaps a huge gain, sometimes going two steps backward – but knowing that with God’s assignment and resources, there will be no ultimate failure when we live In Partnership With God.

In Retrospect #50

Since 1965 Christ Church of Oak Brook has sought to be a community of disciples where the worship of God, the spiritual growth of people, and the service of God’s kingdom are pursued with passion and excellence.

I was the Associate Pastor of Christ Church of Oak Brook (CCOB), IL for 30 wonderful and yet very tough months – 1972-75. While at CCOB, the church grew from less than 1000 to 2300 members. It would be much easier for me to write only about the highlights, the successes, the easy times etc. I do not think this would be most helpful to you, or honest of me. When we left, I believe the senior pastor was relieved. I will do my very best to write from my heart….

Pastor Arthur DeKruyter was the founding pastor of this unique, thriving church, and a man who had the courage to significantly change his understanding of God’s desired involvement in people’s lives, and to change his approach to ministry. He wrote about these transitions in his book, Journey into Joy. It takes tremendous courage for a person who was incredibly successful in founding and leading a healthy, growing church (6 families to perhaps 4,000 people when he retired) to consider serious personal change, but he did. We were there before this transformation occurred. When I returned on a Sunday morning, perhaps 15 years later, I was welcomed with a hug and a big smile!

This was the only time our family had the privilege of living near extended family. None of us knew we would have this privilege for less than three years. Although we lived within 30 minutes of my parents, two brothers and their families – and 30 minutes from Sally Jo’s parents and her brother and family, we did not see any of them nearly as much as we thought we would. They were busy and we were busy and we just did not carve out time for each other. Again, wonderful times and some tough ones.

I did not realize some of the impact of my ministry at CCOB until we returned for the church’s 40th anniversary celebration. The church had remained focused on its mission and the congregation had grown to over 6,000.

On Saturday evening there was a dinner when we had the opportunity of seeing many people we had enjoyed during our “Oak Brook years.” During the course of the evening David Melvin, Executive Pastor of CCOB, told me I was a pivotal reason he was in the ministry. He reminded me of a conversation we had 25 years before. We had talked about the fact that he had felt he should go into the ministry for some time, but, as I remember, he had a wife and children, and no significant financial resources. I did not know his parents, but was 99% sure they had very considerable financial resources. I suggested he go to them, tell them his heart’s desire and the financial obstacle he faced – and ask if they would be willing to help. No one in his family had gone into full time Christian vocation, and he did not know how this request would be received. I gave no further thought to the conversation. And here he was, thanking me for my role in his becoming a minister.

On Sunday morning, as we walked toward the sanctuary, many of the elders were in the large foyer welcoming people to church, most often by name. One of these elders welcomed us, and asked our names. I said that I was Chuck Gieser, Associate Pastor of the church for about 3 years. His response blew me away. “You were here for only three years? What an incredible legacy you left.”

After the service a man introduced himself and said that when he was 12 he interviewed me for a school paper he was writing. After our time together he decided he would go into the ministry. I had no clue!

While at CCOB I saw excellence in ministry modeled, worked with and was mentored by incredible people, was encouraged to use my gifts/abilities in the organization and implementation of many different ministries, experienced the reality of God in life-changing ways, gained insight into my strengths and weaknesses, and decided in many areas what I would seek to do and not do, all of which helped prepare me for further ministry.