Article: Last Week at Church

Last Sunday at Community Lutheran Church in Las Vegas, we conducted our annual congregational meeting. We accomplished several things at that meeting: We voted on a church budget for 2022, we discussed our ministries and we voted in two new council members.

The budget I proposed to the congregation and adopted involved some painful decisions. To match our expenses with our anticipated offering gifts we needed to eliminate four positions and move one full time employee to part-time. This is a difficult decision because people we know are losing their jobs.

The reality is that we’ve been living beyond our means.  We hoped the challenges of the pandemic would come to an end. Rather than “crossing our fingers” and wishing for future financial growth, we based this year’s budget on actual giving from last year. This will serve as our baseline versus projecting any growth in giving. This is a fiscally conservative budget.

Ultimately, this is about being good stewards (managers) of the gifts entrusted to operate this church. Difficult decisions were made to make sure we are on firm financial footing in 2022. If you regularly give to CLC, Thank you. 

Each person should give what they have decided in their heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 

During the meeting we also heard reports from our staff. Not only that, but our annual report contained stories from many of our active ministries! Community Lutheran Church is a busy place! We give thanks for serving hearts that put faith into action.

I spent some time during the meeting talk about the hard work we did together identifying our core values in 2021. We named the most important things we do as a congregation. These core values will serve as our blueprint for ministry for years to come. What are our core values you ask? They are: Welcome, Worship, Learning, Service and Generosity. We also said that our congregation is: Loving, Caring, Compassionate, Joyful, Friendly and Fun. 

It was Jesus who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13

Finally we voted to add two church council members. We affirmed these two long-standing, faithful members of our church to help guide us. This is in addition to our already strong council who passionately love and care for this church. We are in good hands with these smart, caring and compassionate people. 

I’ve said this before, but we are emerging from the biggest challenge this church (and many churches) have ever faced in modern history and we are still thriving!

We did not give up, give in, or give out! Instead, we went all in! 

We are doing the very thing that the author Hebrews writes about in the 12th chapter.

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-12

I give thanks to be your pastor and I give thanks to be at Community Lutheran Church.

God bless you,
Pr. Ben

Article: Hope More Than Wish

Having COVID stinks. There I said it. My heart goes out to all who suffered much worse and to those families who lost loved ones to this horrible virus. 

Yes like most people, I was wishing 2022 would be different somehow. Maybe it will be, but not quite yet.

Instead of wishing, I need to turn my attention towards hope.  Wishing is a time waster. Last week when I was sick, I spent some of that time wishing that I felt better. Honestly, that was not going to change a dang thing. Instead, I focused on resting and taking care of myself. (That is way more productive than wishing my way through life.)

Wishing for a better year will have no effect on our future whatsoever. However, I do have hope! That is way different than wishing. 

What is hope you ask? The author of Hebrews defines it quite well.

This is what they wrote…

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. Hebrews 11:1-2

If hope (according to the author of Hebrews) is being sure of what hasn’t happened yet (but promised) and confidence in that which we do not see, then we have reason to be optimistic!

Let’s be clear, we can’t have hope in everything. The scope of hope is limited to the realm of God. Everything outside of that is wishful thinking no matter how probable something might be.

I cannot hope for a better year because that is not promised. However, I do have hope that the Church will do great things in Jesus’ name in 2022 because Jesus promised this…

…and on this rock (of a truth that Jesus is the Son of God) I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:18

I have hope that we can do great things together under the banner of God’s name in the most difficult of circumstances. If we can prevail over the gates of hades, we can overcome a lot!

We can’t control much, but we know who does… Jesus! I put my trust and hope in the one who rose from the dead. He promised he would rise in three days and guess what? He did! 

Whatever this year will bring, I will trust him. We will keep Jesus the number one thing at church and in our lives. He will never steer us wrong, especially when the future is uncertain. 

God bless,
Pr. Ben

Article: A Blessing For Us All

May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. 
2 Thessalonians 3:5 

The verse above appears to be a blessing bestowed upon the church of Thessalonica by Saint Paul.

I need both of those blessings. First to be guided into God’s love and then to persevere like Jesus, especially in 2022.

Like you, I was hoping we were done with COVID after the vaccines became available. Not that it would prevent COVID entirely, but that it would minimize another massive wave of infections.  Unfortunately, the new variant meant new infections. Yes, I naively thought this would mostly go away in the new year. I am weary from all the illness and COVID related death we have experienced in our church family.

Sidenote: I am so thankful for the vaccine and the countless scientists and researchers who helped make this a reality. I understand this would be a lot worse without vaccinations. 

I need the same spirit of perseverance that Jesus employed to finish his mission to forgive and reconcile humanity. It certainly took a great deal of persistence and determination to die prematurely for our benefit. Jesus followed through so that we might gain the Kingdom and be claimed as forgiven children of God.

I need that same perseverance to move forward and not retreat to my bed and pull the comforter over my head and say to Rachel, “Let me know when it is all over.” 

Yet, I know there is work to be done. Important work. Work that has eternal significance. Last week, I told everyone who worshiped with us, “You will encounter someone this week who needs this church.” Not just this week, but every week. That thought gets me out of bed in the morning, in spite of the struggles we are facing. 

Paul also wrote that he hoped our hearts would be directed “into God’s love.” It is easy to become cynical which leads to a lack of perseverance. Love makes all things possible including how we live in society. If we cease to care, everything falls apart. 

No matter what the year brings, I am not giving up…with God’s love, we will persevere and share the love of Jesus to this city and beyond.

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:4 

God bless,
Pr. Ben