Friday, October 11, 2019

Settler vs. Pioneer

Do you relate more to a settler or a pioneer in your faith journey?

Five years ago, Pastor David Dwight from Hope Church preached at a Restoration Church worship service on Sunday, 10/5/14 out of Genesis 11:31-12:1 with God's calling of Abram as the focus. The worship service marked the beginning of Restoration Church as an official church in our denomination (EPC). 

In the middle of the sermon, he read from "The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus" by Brennan Manning. The focus of the reading was the difference between settlers and pioneers in terms of our faith journey. 
Here is an excerpt from this book in Chapter 3 "Freedom Under the Word." As you read this, consider whether you range more toward a settler or pioneer approach to your faith and how that impacts your view of the steps of faith that God is calling us to take in order to plant deep as a church family. 

The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus

There are two visions of life, two kinds of people. The first see life as a possession to be carefully guarded. They are called settlers. The second see life as a wild, fantastic, explosive gift. They are called pioneers. 

These two types give rise to two kinds of theology: Settler Theology and Pioneer Theology. According to Wes Seeliger in his book Western Theology, the first kind, Settler Theology, is an attempt to answer all the questions, define and housebreak some sort of Supreme Being, establish the status quo on golden tablets in cinemascope. Pioneer Theology is an attempt to talk about what it means to receive the strange gift of life. The Wild West is the setting for both theologies.  

In Settler Theology the church is the courthouse. It is the center of town life. The old stone structure dominates the town square. Its windows are small, and this makes things dark inside. Within the courthouse walls, records are kept, taxes collected, trials held for bad guys. The courthouse is the settler’s symbol of law, order, stability and— most important— security. The mayor’s office is on the top floor. His eagle eye ferrets out the smallest details of town life.  

In Pioneer Theology the church is the covered wagon. It’s a house on wheels, always on the move. The covered wagon is where the pioneers eat, sleep, fight, love and die. It bears the marks of life and movement— it creaks, is scarred with arrows, bandaged with bailing wire. The covered wagon is always where the action is. It moves toward the future and doesn’t bother to glorify its own ruts. The old wagon isn’t comfortable, but the pioneers don’t mind. They are more into adventure than comfort.   

In Settler Theology God is the mayor. He is a sight to behold. Dressed like a dude from back East, he lounges in an overstuffed chair in his courthouse office. He keeps the blinds drawn. No one sees him or knows him directly, but since there is order in the town, who can deny that he is there? The mayor is predictable and always on schedule. The settlers fear the mayor but look to him to clear the payroll and keep things going. Peace and quiet are the mayor’s main concerns. That’s why he sends the sheriff to check on pioneers who ride into town.  

In Pioneer Theology God is the trail boss. He is rough and rugged, full of life. He chews tobacco, drinks straight whiskey. The trail boss lives, eats, sleeps, fights with his people. Their well-being is his concern. Without him the wagon wouldn’t move; living as a freeman would be impossible. The trail boss often gets down in the mud with the pioneers to help push the wagon, which often gets stuck. He prods the pioneers when they get soft and want to turn back. His fist is an expression of his concern.  

In Settler Theology Jesus is the sheriff. He’s the guy who is sent by the mayor to enforce the rules. He wears a white hat, drinks milk, outdraws the bad guys. The sheriff decides who is thrown into jail. There is a saying in town that goes: “Those who believe that the mayor sent the sheriff, and follow the rules— they won’t stay in Boothill when it comes their time.”  

In Pioneer Theology Jesus is the scout. He rides out ahead to find out which way the pioneers should go. He lives all the dangers of the trail. The scout suffers every hardship, is attacked by the Indians. Through his words and actions he reveals the true intentions of the trail boss. By looking at the scout, those on the trail learn what it means to be a pioneer.  

In Settler Theology the Holy Spirit is the saloon girl. Her job is to comfort the settlers. They come to her when they feel lonely or when life gets dull or dangerous. She tickles them under the chin and makes everything okay again. The saloon girl squeals to the sheriff when someone starts disturbing the peace.  

In Pioneer Theology the Holy Spirit is the buffalo hunter. He rides along with the covered wagon and furnishes fresh meat for the pioneers. Without it they would die. The buffalo hunter is a strange character— sort of a wild man. The pioneers never can tell what he will do next. He scares the hell out of the settlers. He has a big black gun that goes off like a cannon. He rides into town on Sunday to shake up the settlers. You see, every Sunday morning, the settlers have a little ice cream party in the courthouse. With his gun in hand the buffalo hunter sneaks up to one of the courthouse windows. He fires a tremendous blast that rattles the whole courthouse. Men jump out of their skin, women scream, dogs bark. Chuckling to himself, the buffalo hunter rides back to the wagon train shooting up the town as he goes.  

In Settler Theology the Christian is the settler. He fears the open unknown frontier. His concern is to stay on good terms with the mayor and keep out of the sheriff’s way. “Safety first” is his motto. To him the courthouse is a symbol of security, peace, order and happiness. He keeps his money in the bank. The banker is his best friend. The settler never misses an ice cream party.  

In Pioneer Theology the Christian is the pioneer. He is a man of daring, hungry for new life. He rides hard, knows how to use a gun when necessary. The pioneer feels sorry for the settlers and tries to tell them of the joy and fulfillment of life on the trail. He dies with his boots on.   

In Settler Theology the clergyman is the banker. Within his vault are locked the values of the town. He is a highly respected man. He has a gun but keeps it hidden in his desk. He feels that he and the sheriff have a lot in common. After all, they both protect the bank.  

In Pioneer Theology the clergyman is the cook. He doesn’t furnish the meat. He just dishes up what the buffalo hunter provides. This is how he supports the movement of the wagon. He never confuses his job with that of the trail boss, scout or buffalo hunter. He sees himself as just another pioneer who has learned to cook. The cook’s job is to help the pioneers pioneer.  

In Settler Theology faith is trusting in the safety of the town: obeying the laws, keeping your nose clean, believing the mayor is in the courthouse.  

In Pioneer Theology faith is the spirit of adventure. The readiness to move out. To risk everything on the trail. Faith is obedience to the restless voice of the trail boss.  

In Settler Theology sin is breaking one of the town’s ordinances

In Pioneer Theology sin is wanting to turn back.  

In Settler Theology salvation is living close to home and hanging around the courthouse

In Pioneer Theology salvation is being more afraid of sterile town life than of death on the trail. Salvation is joy at the thought of another day to push on into the unknown. It is trusting the trail boss and following his scout while living on the meat provided by the buffalo hunter. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

One Team

“We get to be a part of what God is doing together!”

I heard this quote this past weekend at a Presbytery meeting in North Carolina from the pastor of Hope Church in Fredericksburg, VA.

I had the opportunity to meet him, his wife and a few of their church leaders at the meeting. I thanked them for their generosity of the gift of their 300 chairs. I shared with them about how our staff had come to discern the number 300 about the worship area in our dedicated space and how the email came from our Presbytery shortly thereafter.

A big smile came to their faces when I shared this update and they shared the quote that I mentioned above.

We talked more about how churches like ours need to support one another and how God can shine through the process. In addition, we discussed how much we can be encouraged as we watch God work in and through relationships like the one he has formed through their generosity with us.

I felt like God had provided some new friends. In fact, God had opened the way for me to get to know some more brothers and sisters in Christ.

A few days ago, a team led by Dick Class went up to Fredericksburg to get the chairs. Tom McMahon, Bobby Pauley and Bill Moore joined him for the work. Tommy Sibiga from Hometown Reality lent us his big truck to use and the team loaded in the 300 chairs. In addition to these chairs, Hope Church also provided about 50 more of those chairs and 40-50 padded folding chairs. They also gave us 6-8 tables of various sizes.

Hope’s pastor and those present prayed for us and commissioned the chairs for their new use with us in the future.

The team transported the chairs and tables to Antiques Little Dodge City in Ashland where Bill & Charlotte Pauley have opened up space for storage. The team was met by Lynn & Leo Mesco to help unload while Bill & Charlotte shared water and love in the process.

God has given Restoration Church 400 chairs and 6-8 tables. 

God also has given us a new relationship with Hope Church in Fredericksburg.

God also provided the opportunity for our church members to use their gifts and share their resources (energy, space for storage and love!)

As we continue on this journey of Planting Deep, I believe that God will give us more and more opportunities to grow closer to Him and to one another while also opening up doors for new relationships along the way.

We are all one team and God is leading us forward together in Christ.

Gifts To Share

I shared a quote from pastor and author Tim Keller with my Restoration Church family this past Sunday. Keller shared this quote a few years ago with his New York City church as a way to help them reflect on their shared identity and the gifts that they had to offer the city.

He said, “If you and your church were to disappear off the face of the earth tomorrow, would anyone in the community around you notice you were gone?”

I asked Restoration Church to consider this question.

I then asked, “What do you love about Restoration Church?”
I asked these questions in order to help us reflect on the grace that we have received from God through our church family and the types of gifts that we have to offer our community.

I asked us to write down what God brought to our heart and mind on our communication card.
Here is the list of what I received (leaving off specific names for this list and duplicate entries):
  • Biblical sermons and classes
  • A trusted place for my children to grow in Christ
  • Small groups
  • Women’s retreats
  • “I love the people here”
  • Kindness from our church members regarding our situation
  • Efforts made with the youth
  • I love the staff ministry team
  • I love the church people
  • I love the dedication
  • Bringing families in our church and community closer to God
  • Spreading love within and outside our church
  • Love and support of one another
  • How we keep persevering!
  • All the people who are kind
  • Development and involvement of children as well as adults
  • Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS)
  • Youth bands
  • Apples of Gold - mentoring relationships
  • We never give up
  • Worship
  • I am grateful for the ongoing prayers for my child and our family
  • Serving the community as a unit
  • Growing closer to our Savior through blessings AND trials
  • Meaningful relationships
  • The worship music
  • Love & laughter
  • Love & support for each other, our friendships, our community
  • I love the youth ministry
  • Lifelong connections and relationships
  • Our church family has showered us with love during many challenges and happy times
  • New friends in Christ that have loved and supported our family
  • Changed my heart
  • Helped my relationship with my family
  • Delivered me from alcohol and drugs
  • Saved my marriage
  • Made me stronger in my faith
  • Sent me new and great friends
  • Showed me love
  • Changed my life
  • This church steps up when people are in need of meals, support, prayers, visits - this church is there! We’ve experienced it and so have so many others! Let’s go!!
  • Children’s ministry
  • A home away from home feeling
  • Our small group is a wonderful blessing
  • Deeper understanding of faith
  • Persistence and faithfulness
  • Staying true to God’s Word
  • Care and connection
  • Love through prayer, meals, yard work, companionship and teaching
  • Our missions focus
  • The love of our church family
I believe wholeheartedly that God blesses us to be a blessing - to one another, to our community.

I am grateful for our Restoration Church family and the ways that God’s grace flows between us and through us to others.

I believe that God is calling us to share our gifts and His grace more and more with one another and our community.

Our vision to plant deep and deeper roots in our community through relocating to a dedicated space provides the way for us to more faithfully experience and share God’s grace.

He is calling us to “get ready” and to engage in our steps of preparation for this move for His glory in our lives and in our community!

Lean Into It!

“For we live by faith, not by sight.“
2 Corinthians 5:7

I clearly remember the first time I went skiing. I was on a weekend Boy Scout camping trip and we had the opportunity to go to a small ski area called Craigmeur in north Jersey. I was both thrilled and scared to go on this new adventure.

My Dad joined us for the day and he provided some basic ski lessons. He was an avid skier and he was the perfect instructor for beginners like me and my friends. I fondly recall the initial moments of having us fall down and then work to stand back up. He shared, “You will fall down. The important thing is getting back up.” He shared many other lessons with us that cold, clear Saturday.

The lesson that surprised me the most was how to lean into turns. My Dad explained how I needed to bend the opposite knees from the direction I wanted to go. He shared how this wasn’t what we would expect and that we would have to lean into it BY FAITH.

We started to head down the hill and I wanted to turn. I remembered by Dad’s words but I didn’t put them into practice. I tried to move to the left by bending my left knee but I ended up losing my balance and falling down! I got up and tried again. I tried to move to the right by bending my right knees but I lost my balance again and fell down.

My Dad found me and provided the explanation for turning again.

He repeated, “lean into it BY FAITH.”

The next time down I tried it. I didn’t believe it in my mind but I pushed against my logic and leaned into my Dad’s instruction. I tried to turn to the left by bending my right knee AND IT WORKED! I couldn’t believe it. I then tried to go in the opposite direction by switching and it worked again.

Following Jesus includes many of these same patterns. 

We may not be able to see the outcome or how we will get there but God gives us the way. Our role is to listen, trust and put His instruction into practice. If we lean into his teaching with our lives, then we can experience His grace through His fulfilled promises.

As Restoration Church, we are seeking to plant deep in our community through relocating to a dedicated space. This move requires steps of faith that sometimes may not seem logical or feel correct. We have the opportunity, however, to experience God’s grace and live the adventure of faith through these steps!

Our role is to “lean into it BY FAITH.”

Leaning in can be hard but we owe God our entire lives because He gave everything for us. We can step forward BY FAITH by moving with a posture of “why not?” as opposed to stopping prematurely with a posture of “why?”

May God meet us as we step forward and lean into it BY FAITH.


God has been leading Restoration Church on a journey of faith for over 6 ½ years.

Our shared mission is, “with love, we embrace life together as we multiply deeper relationships in Christ.” In order to live into that mission, we discerned last year that God was calling us to plant deep and wide in our community. As Restoration Church, we are seeking to plant deep in our community through relocating to a fixed space that we can call home.

Our church staff has been working on an analysis for our new space. We started by developing a list of “basic needs,” “better,” and “dream” scenarios for the various ministry areas. This analysis included descriptions of environments, equipment and other needs.

One of the focus areas was the worship space and the number of seats that we envisioned. The initial number that we ascertained was 300. This starting point stayed through the subsequent discussions.

We have also committed to praying as we have been considering the details and costs for our move. We have been asking God to provide for us as a church family in light of our increased financial needs for rent, utilities, equipment and other unplanned expenses. These prayers have provided opportunities to grow in our dependence and trust in God.

During this season of prayer, I received an email from our Presbytery indicating that a church in Fredericksburg, VA was offering 300 chairs to any congregation in need.

300 chairs!

I couldn’t believe my eyes. Was I really reading this email message?

I contacted our Relocation Team right away about the opportunity and then contacted the person listed in the email. He responded by stating that he had received many requests for the chairs and that his committee would be in prayer about the possibilities. I shared with him our church’s story and how we are seeking to move from meeting in a middle school to a fixed space in our community. I then shared how our church staff had discerned that we would start with a space with 300 chairs!

He responded, “Wow! We will definitely take that into consideration!”

Within a week, we received word that we had been awarded chairs! In fact, they shared that they may have additional chairs and tables to give to us.

I am still stunned and deeply encouraged by this development.

I believe wholeheartedly that God calls people into faith-building opportunities that force us to rely on his promised presence and provision. If we choose to step forward in faith together, then I believe God will honor our faith as we look to him with renewed trust.

Let’s GET READY to step forward together in faith.

Let’s GET READY to see how God makes the way.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Welcome to Planting Deep

I would like to share some exciting news with you. Last summer (2018) our Session of Elders discerned a vision for planting deep and wide in our community.

The announcement came in August 2018 with the formal motion from our Session that reads:
“With unity, boldness, and courage we believe that God is calling us to step out in faith by planting deep and wide. We recommit to growing deeper relationships with Christ and each other through Jeff Lee’s leadership. We will seek to have a dedicated full time home by April 2020 to be used by our congregation and our community. We will simultaneously begin the process of planting a church in Ashland through Jon Gibson’s leadership to meet the needs of that community.”
Last year, Restoration Church formed a Relocation Team that has been working on a search for fixed space in the Mechanicsville area for our church family.

This has been a season of discernment and praying for the Lord’s perfect timing and provision. We have been prayerfully seeking to find a more long-term home for our church family that will be both a blessing to our congregation and to our community.

This Blog:
The purpose of this blog is to help keep you updated, knowing that you will have all kinds of thoughts and ideas and questions and concerns along the way. I will be seeking to post a weekly update at a minimum. I may share more updates depending on the flow and frequency of developments.

I encourage you to follow this blog so updates can be pushed to your email or commit to coming to this blog every week for the updates. Please feel free to share this with anyone who would be interested in knowing more about this exciting journey of planting deep for Restoration Church.

I am asking us to pray about God’s leading in this exciting step for us as a church.

Let’s pray for God’s clear guidance, that he will open the right doors and close the wrong ones, that he will keep our church family focused on people (even as we think about structures).

Let’s pray for God to increase our faith on this journey!

God calls us to faith-building opportunities that force us to rely on his promised presence and provision.

Let’s lean into this faith-building opportunity together!

Jeff Lee
Restoration Church - Pastor

Settler vs. Pioneer

  Do you relate more to a settler or a pioneer in your faith journey? Five years ago, Pastor David Dwight from Hope Church pre...