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Common Ground

I have been intensely searching and praying for a tangible way to connect with the unchurched people I come in contact with on a daily basis. I find it difficult to make the transition from “Did you see the Yankee game last night?” to “Have you thought much about Jesus and what He did for you on the cross?” I have been praying for the neighbors on my street by name for two years now, that opportunities to build friendships and engage in meaningful conversations would present themselves. I have definitely seen some fruit from this, but it does seem to be painfully slow sometimes. I do pray for the Holy Spirit to fill my development as I walk Esther in the morning. I picture this as the Spirit visibly moving through the streets and into people’s houses, hearts, and minds! It seems like consistent prayer, and a willingness to be responsive to the situations  the Spirit puts us in is the key. It is tough to be in a community that, outwardly at least, does not think they need any real connection with Jesus. I was once there some 15 years ago, I thought I had things pretty well figured out, but there was always that uneasiness and restlessness that was hard to identify. I would set professional or financial goals that by this or that date I would have this degree or attain a certain milestone in my business, or have a certain this or that paid off by a certain date then we would be all set and we’d be comfortable. It was kind of like the opening of the show “Maxwell Smart” where he would go through a series or doors, into a phone booth, and then drops out of sight! Is that all there is, just figuring out how to get through the next door, then drop out of sight when our lives come to an end??

Last year I started looking at the evangelistic program Alpha. It started back in the 90’s in England, and is now headed up by a guy named Nicky Gumbel. I happened to be reading a one year Bible plan on the You version Bible app that he put together, he keep mentioning Alpha in his daily commentary that went along with the Bible reading for that day. I was very intrigued by it’s overall success and world wide popularity. I signed Lakeshore up with an account and got us ready to host a session. First I wanted to run some of the video’s by some of our folks to see what they thought, there were mix reviews. I came up with a list of potential people to invite, but we haven’t pulled the trigger yet.

A month or so ago I saw Sacred Heart started to advertise Alpha coming in September. I decided to attend, the first night was tonight, I must say I felt a little like a spy!  My main goal in attending was to find common ground with the Catholic community so we can all better reach the unchurched among us. I did enjoy the conversation in our group, there were quite a few reasons why folks were there.

Anywho, it has been said that I am spending too much time writing and preaching about this subject, I don’t know, I guess I am a little obsessed about it, but it seems so critical to me! I’m going to try and focus on some other subjects for the next few weeks so I don’t get too repetitive hammering on this. Feel free to share a comment about how you, as an evangelist, have tried to connect with folks, or how some unchurched folks out there would be willing to engage in a meaningful discussion about the larger things of life. Until next time, be Blessed!!

The seesaw of time and something in between!

I have been thinking a lot lately about the management of time. Everyone has 168 hours a week in their time bank, how we choose to spend and save time is up to us. It has always been interesting to me how the perception of time can change depending on the circumstances we find ourselves in. Sometimes it seems to fly while other times it can almost come to a stop. It is funny how the brain can squeeze or push the flow of time, much like a small stream we might have played in as kids where we could damn up the water or push it faster downstream. In the end the stream of time goes back to it’s natural pace.

My main issue with time is the proper allocation of it to the various parts of my life. Having two jobs makes this somewhat precarious on occasion. Last year, my first year as the lead Pastor at Lakeshore, I found myself constantly seesawing back and forth between our Electrical contracting business and the church. When I would focus on the business the church would struggle, and when I focused on the church the business would struggle! I had to bring people around me at both the church and the business to absorb some of the day to day responsibilities of each. The critical piece to this process was finding the right people and making the wellness of the business and the church the priority, it was not about me, my needs, or my ego.

Placing the right amount of “weight” on both ends of the seesaw keeps it from slamming to the ground. That seems to be the key, to keep both the business and the church from crashing to the ground! One of the other challenges is the diversity built into both ends of the “seesaw.” I think of it as being a hockey player and a figure skater, with Mac it is more like “hockey”, you skate hard, fast, and tough to get the job done in the most professional, efficient way, and move on to the next “game”. Lakeshore, on the other hand is much like “figure skating”, where the pace and choreography vary depending on the situation. I really like the change of pace with “figure skating”, it is much less physically damaging and intense. In “hockey” there is checking, fighting, yelling and screaming, don’t get me wrong “hockey” can also be very exciting and rewarding. After 33 years of it my body and mind are getting weary from the pace and demands of the “game.”

It is a pleasant change of pace to shift gears, slow down, and  spend quality time with people. I thrive on connecting with folks in their times of need. The discussion is not superficial or “small”, we talk about the deep, meaningful aspects of life that matter! We talk about our struggles,  insecurities, and fears. We also share in each others joys and breath in the  sweet savor of  Christian fellowship just “doing” life together.  I have never had so much fun as I’ve had with the Peeps at Lakeshore!

This leads us to the final part of my title, “the something in between.” Having to change out of a figure skating costume and back into hockey equipment with no break in between is very taxing, both mentally and physically! God was quite serious about the implementation and observance of the Sabbath rest. As Christ said when confronted about picking heads of wheat on the Sabbath, “Man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for man!” God wired us to need rest, both physically and mentally. This is one thing I have struggled with the last two weeks as we’ve experienced a swell of work at Mac, I have gone from Lakeshore on Sunday right back into Mac on Monday!! I got so miserable, and cranky by last Friday I just had to go home and shut down. As I had time to reflect on this over the last few days I came to have a much greater appreciation for the  wisdom and need for rest! We all need it to some extent, to help us produce our best, whatever that may be!

Blessings,                                                                                                                                                                    Mike

 

Hitting my stride

I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for the last six months or so. I always seem to have a lot tumbling around in my brain as I go about the daily routines of life. So why “Hitting My Stride” you may wonder? I was a pretty avid runner back in the 90’s and early 2000’s, I even ran a few marathons! I was in the best shape of my life back in 2003 at the age of 40. Then I started an Electrical Contracting business in early 2004. More than 13 years later I am still at it with Mac Electric Services, Inc. It has been a wild ride  since day one! Looking back we had no money, no customers, and lots of debt! Not exactly fertile ground for starting a business. Some of the things it has given us are a toughness under pressure, perseverance, an appreciation for hard work, and the value of a dollar. It has been a training ground for us spiritually as well, fat dumb and happy we are not! Many times, even today we have had to trust God for our daily bread. There is a certain sense of adventure associated with that type of Divine dependance, living on the edge a bit for sure!

In June of 2016 I became the Lead Pastor at Lakeshore Baptist Church here in Cicero, NY. The first year was a fire fight of controversy, defection, victory, growth, unity, and a seesaw of time management struggles between the church and the business. Then about six or seven months into it something clicked, there was something different about my preaching. I finally relaxed and didn’t feel the need  to prove to people with every sermon that I knew enough about the Bible to be a Pastor. I find now that it is more important to take a little bit of scripture, mix in a culturally relevant take away, add in lots of heart and passion, and pray for the Spirit of God to help you say what He wants you to say!

This is where the blog gets it’s title! I finally feel after 54 years I am starting to hit my stride! There is no doubt that God has called me into ministry, it just took me more than a half a century to really answer that call! Somebody told me recently that you will know if you are called if you aren’t happy with what you are doing outside of your call! That sealed the deal for me, I have always had a love hate relationship with the business. My Wife Beth and I have a pretty cool working relationship now, she officially owns the business, which she is taking a much bigger role in running now. This gives me more time to focus on the church, so everybody wins! That doesn’t happen very often, so we are definitely blessed in that area!

As of late I have had a vision of simplicity and tactically sound relational evangelism for our church. I want us to streamline our leadership, our ministries, and come up with real, practical, accountable ways to join with everybody we come in contact with to share the Gospel. Not only the Gospel, but life itself, really come along side people and share life with them, love them, laugh and cry with them! I have a new passion for people I’ve never experienced before, it’s a beautiful thing!!

I want to try and post to this blog once a week, hopefully on Mondays. Next week I will be doing a Sermon on taking our thoughts captive to Christ as I am reading through a great book by Jeff Vanderstelt called “Gospel Fluency.” The Gospel is a language that we need to learn in order to speak it effectively! We need to immerse ourselves in it to know it. One quote Jeff had was “You love what you talk about and you talk about what you love!” Please join me and comment as you feel lead with any observations, criticisms, or suggestions!

Be Blessed,

PM