One of the things that I really enjoyed as a kid was playing with Play-Doh. There was just something about the feel of that clay like substance in your hands as you molded it into all kinds of amazing creations. One of the coolest things about Play-Doh is that once you used the substance to create a Play-Doh car or frog or house, all you had to do was mush up the Play-Doh in your hands, re-roll it and you could then begin making some other cool creation. Make a mistake? No problem! Play-Doh is flexible enough that you can rework any mistake into a masterpiece.
You know, over the past few months I’ve been thinking that God must like Play-Doh. He seems to use it all of the time, creating masterpieces out of blobs on unformed clay.
In the Bible, Jeremiah 18:3-6, the prophet shares this story: “So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. The the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand…”
You know what is one of the amazing things about God? He is the master of do-overs! Our God loves us so much that He constantly takes our mistakes into His hands and works them into masterpieces. That’s what happened when Jesus went to the cross for our sins. That’s what happens everytime we let God put His fingers on the Play-Doh of our lives.
I’ve noticed His re-molding efferts in my life lately, especially in the area of church planting here in Spencerville. God’s dream is that there be a new type of Christian commnunity in our town with the Catacombs ministry to teens at the heart of it. I took the Play-Doh into my hands and things did not turn out the way that neither God or I had envisioned.
Guess what? God is patient. God is kind. God plays with Play-Doh.
God has taken these “mistakes” from the first molding of church planting and turned them all into blessings as He has begun to remold the clay in His hands and coaxing me, who was about willing to pack up my Play-Doh and go home, to stay at it and let Him take the lead in making the masterpiece this time. Right now, I can see His hands at work. The vision is still the same, but the Play-Doh looks different. His hand prints are all over it. Things are falling into place even as they remain beyond my ability and beyond my control. Thank you Jesus!
Yes, Lord, You can do just as the potter did and make any mistake into Your masterpiece. Thank you Jesus! I’m not sure how things will work out, but I’m willing to put my hands in Yours and mold some Play-Doh for Your glory and to bless Your Name. Amen.
Everyday when I walk outside the front door of my house I see it. “It” is an old brick building down the street built in the 1880′s. “It” sits on the corner of First and College streets. Most people in town see it as an old storage building used by a nearby factory. Some even remember “it” as the old Grange hall. Yet, I know “it” is something more than that. “It” is a holy place…an inspiration for me every morning.
“It” is the old St. John’s Reformed Church building built in 1883 under the guidance of Rev. Peter Greding. Stone used in the building originated in Piqua and bricks for the building were brought up from New Bremen by canal boat. The building served as a house of worship from 1884 until 1929 when the congregation left the building and then later built another church facility on the other side of town.
Yet, this old, abandoned church building inspires me everyday. It’s pastor, Rev. Greding, was a church planter who planted a Reformed congregation in Lima, Ohio before coming to minister to the people of Spencerville. He was also a professor at Heidelberg College’s seminary, and wrote and edited Sunday School literature for the German Reformed Church* to help people merge their living faith in Jesus with life in the real world. (Peter’s my kind of guy. I’d bet he would have been a blogger for Jesus if he’d only had a laptop computer and internet connection back then!) But what inspires me most is that Rev. Greding and the good people of the St. John’s Reformed Church cared enough about their community that they took the time to develop a new type of church that would touch people’s lives in the center of the community in which they lived and worked.
This undertaking was no cake walk I’m sure for the small band of Jesus followers who decided to plant a new church start in Spencerville in 1871. It took vision, determination, courage and a lot of living faith outside of the box to believe that it could happen. Looking at this old church building everyday when I leave my house reminds me of a verse from the Bible: “…with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:24).
Seeing that old building from my front porch reminds me that what Jesus said is true, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” So often in life we find that the things we want to achieve are out of our reach and beyond our ability. (Too many people surrender their dreams and just give up.) Yet, if we fall into Jesus’ arms and let God take control we gain something we didn’t have before: strength beyond strength, hope beyond hope, a God who stands at our side and will not let us go. God opens doors where there are no doors. We just have to have the courage to walk through them.
That’s what I see when I look at that old abandoned church building down the street and think of Rev. Peter Greding and the folk who had the courage to build it near the center of town. It is one of the things that inspires me to live faith outside of the box today. If Peter Greding could do it…with God’s help, so can I…so can you! I’d like to tour that old building someday, and perhaps, in my wildest dreams, even get a chance to worship there too.
What markers in your life and in your neighborhood do you use to help you believe that “with God all things are possible”? What ignites the fire in your belly to believe that you can make a difference in the heart of this town? If you haven’t found “it” yet, just open the door, step outside and take a look around. God will show you something incredible…if you open your eyes, and you will never be the same. I promise.
That’s what living faith outside of the box is all about.
* The German Reformed Church is a forebear of the Evangelical Association of Reformed & Congregational Christian Churches
I must make a confession. I’ve never been able to color inside the lines. I know I’m supposed to. That’s what my teachers tried to teach me back in elementary school. Yet, I’ve always felt that there is more picture to be colored and experienced than just what is placed within the lines or even within the margins of the page for that matter.
I met a Lutheran pastor some time ago in a small town in Indiana who said it was impossible to grow his church because there weren’t many Lutherans living in the area. This pastor, God bless him, was stuck thinking that his church and ministry was confined by the rigid lines on the page. Instead, I believe that life is to be lived by coloring the part of the picture that has not yet been dreamed of or set in stone.
Coloring outside of the lines has been a constant in my life. I’m a pastor, but I have an earring and wear leather jeans from time to time. My best friend doesn’t live in a nice house amid a nice neighborhood, but is an inmate in prison learning how to start life over again. I love people living on the margins and I’ve been known to give up my last dollar so that a family in need can buy groceries. I passed up jobs pastoring big churches (with bigger salaries than what I’ve ever had before) to work part time at Meijer and launch a new Christian community in town for free. (Hey, you got to follow God’s voice when He speaks!) People think I’m crazy. I’ve been called too religious, and when I moved into town 10 years ago good church folk said I would never fit in.
Coloring outside of the lines can cause a lot of tension for good, proper folk. I’m not worried about what worries them. I’m more concerned about living my faith where Jesus is. Jesus dwells outside of the lines, outside of the boat, and calls us to come to him walking in faith where no one else goes.
It’s a faith that compels shepherd boys to stand up to giants (1 Samuel 17:40-47), widows to use the last bit of flour and oil in the cupboard to feed strangers (1 Kings 17:7-15), and fishermen to walk on water in the midst of a raging storm (Matthew 14:25-29). Like the Apostle Peter I find myself saying, “Lord, if it’s you…tell me to come to you on the water.” Let me join you in living faith outside of the box.
You see, our Savior does not intend for our lives or our faith to be constrained by man-made lines or margins. After all, he colored outside the lines himself, dining with tax collectors and sinners, touching lepers and refusing to let God’s love to be silenced by the rigid margins of death on a cross and being placed in a sealed, stone cold tomb. Living faith with Jesus is an outside of the box experience and Jesus wants you and me to color outside of the lines so others can experience a picture of life the way God intended it to look like.
Thus, I believe that God intends this new church start to be an out of the box, pioneering experience. It’s not about coloring in the same areas as other churches, it’s about touching people, crossing lines, drawing and coloring God’s dream for new life in families and neighborhoods that other churches see as being beyond their margins.
It’s about living the prayer that Jabez prayed in 1 Chronicles 4:10, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory” beyond the lines, out of the margins and off the page so that those who have yet to hear and experience the God who breaks open sealed, stone cold tombs might experience the life He has intended them to live in Jesus’ name.
Ever feel like coloring outside of the lines? You’ve got Jesus’ permission, and this just might be the right type of church for you. It’s all about living faith outside of the box!