Sunday, June 28, 2015

Ministry in an Increasingly Post-Christain Culture

Caveat – I am a young pastor and, believe it or not, I am fully aware I am not an expert. This is not a space for me to get preachy and offer advice to others in ministry but to present concepts and ask questions that have been important to me and ones I have been wrestling with during my experience in ministry in a post-Christian culture.  

America’s ever-changing religious landscape

One of the fastest growing religious groups in America is the “nones” (not nuns). While it is hardly a “religious” category it is a growing percentage of Americans who are choosing not to attach themselves to any religious group. This group of nones includes atheists, agnostics and what I describe as the “mehs” which are the folks that when asked if they think religion has any importance or bearing on their life they respond with something along the lines of “Meh.” This is a group that does not necessarily see the value of ascribing or aligning themselves to a particular religious belief system or worldview.  So, they simply don’t.

          There have been studies coming out that describe this increasing trend in America’s approaching post-Christian culture.  Pew research came out with a study in 2012 that describes this ballooning group of “nones”:

“The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling. In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%). This large and growing group of Americans is less religious than the public at large on many conventional measures, including frequency of attendance at religious services and the degree of importance they attach to religion in their lives.”

Further research (chart below, which came out this year) is showing that this category of "nones" is only growing as we move down through the younger generations. While some Millennials will end up affiliating with a religion as they grow older, studies seem to indicate that generational groups (particularly Millennials) are actually becoming less religious with age. 

These numbers show a national trend but what many people may not realize is that scattered throughout the United States are pockets of culture that more than double the national percentage of “nones.”

Two years ago my wife Suzanna and I moved from the northern suburbs of Indianapolis to the rural town of Clark, Colorado so that we could help develop a church plant. In our time here we have seen this cultural shift first hand. In Routt County the percentage of people who are connected with a local church is thought to hover around 20% and many of my fellow pastors think that is actually a very generous estimate. In fact, in my research I found that less than 30% of Routt County claim any religious affiliation at all. So that means 70% of people in our county are “nones” and chances are that they will rarely walk into the doors of a church on their own accord. This was a stunning realization. If our primary forms of ministry are done within the walls of the church we will only minister to a shrinking demographic of folks who already at least loosely identify as church-going Christians.

So the question that can make pastors crazy is “How do we get the “nones” into our churches?”

This question should be alarming because if ministries and churches are structured so that someone has to come to a building to hear the Gospel, then they will inevitably be missing a rising percentage of the population that for a variety of reasons (many valid), have decided for themselves that they will not be going to church.
With that reality in mind, I think we might be asking the wrong question. Instead, we may need to challenge our preconceived notions of ministry and ask ourselves a simpler question...

How does the church love and minister to a growing category of people who no longer come to church?

In order to answer that question we need to consider a potential change of perspective. So let me share with you a paradigm shift that has been instrumental in how I view ministry, especially as I find myself in a culture that is particularly averse to the thought of attending a service or church event.

“Attractional” or “Missional”

Now, in order to understand the basic difference between ministry frameworks I am just going to describe them in an incredibly generalized way so the distinctions of philosophies can be seen more clearly. In reality, each church will probably have a mix of both perspectives. However, for the most part churches will function primarily out a "missional" posture or an "attractional" one. 

What do both of these made up words mean? Well, in its simplest form it can be broken down like this... 

Attractional:  the general perspective that “if you build it they will come.” Through a variety of means churches intend to draw people into their community, often in a building. Some ways in which churches try and draw folks in is with nice facilities, engaging worship, relevant messages, organic doughnuts, and enticing free fair-trade coffee. The hope is that once they are here, they can hear the Gospel and be discipled. This perspective is marked by an invitational spirit to join us in our space so that we can minister to you. Sometimes this can lead to a Christian consumerism if we are only attracting folks with shiny lights, top notch pastor jokes, childcare and good programing.

Missional:  a general perspective that is marked by a sending out of the church into the world, rather than the world coming to church. This means that the primary role of church leadership is to equip the saints for works of ministry (Eph. 4:11-12). This perspective is marked by the understanding of each Christian's "sentness" into a broken world as ambassadors of God's redemptive Kingdom. These churches tend to focus primarily on doing - including serving, addressing community issues, the lost, and social justice. This can sometimes create its own type of social justice legalism if we focus more on what we do for God, rather than who we are in God.  

For those of you who are visual I have made some diagrams (albeit generalized) for the Attractional and Missional church models. Attractional (left) - Missional (right)

I believe that it is not an either/or but a both/and. One is focused on gathering the body; the other is focused on sending the body out.  But it seems to me that a true biblical understanding of the church is to gather and to send  because both are a part of the Mission of God. The Gospel has gathered a new people under the grace of God and the lordship of Jesus and that same people have been given a mission.

I think a healthy church body exhibits rhythms of gathering and rhythms of being sent. These are rhythms that we see mark the early church as they gather together in homes and the public spaces like the temple and they break bread, share life, listen to the teachings of Jesus and praise God together. We also see them going out to proclaim Jesus and address areas of brokenness as they take care of the sick, the poor, the widows and others in need. The world was both attracted to them by the way they lived and the Holy Spirit seen in their lives but they also had a mission to the world to be witnesses to Jesus and make disciples of all nations.
In light of our shifting culture it may be time for the western church to relearn the rhythms of gathered and sent.

No matter what I have said you may be confused by the missional jargon I have been using. Why be missional? What is the point? Well the deep seeded motivation for a missional philosophy of ministry actually starts with the assumption that the church has a mission.

Understanding the mission

In order to grasp the idea of missional we need to first understand our “sentness.”  Whether we leave our hometown or move halfway across the globe we must understand that the church is sent because the church has a mission.  

What is the mission of the church? Well, for starters I think a more appropriate question to start with is, what is God’s mission?

Since the fall God has had a plan of redemption! We see it in Noah (restarting with a remnant), the call of Abraham, the nation of Israel (as a blessing to the nations) and in a most profound climax of the story we see it in the sending of His Son Jesus to offer redemption from sin and reconciliation back to our creator. God’s mission is the redemption of His creation.  We see this in Jesus and we see the end product in Revelation with the recreation of new heavens and new earth. As His church we are sent into a broken world to participate in that mission. Jesus tells us the way we do that is by bearing witness to God’s redemptive Kingdom by proclaiming the Gospel of our good king and inviting the world into relationship with Him, submitting to His redemptive rule and reign in their lives. As the church we act as signposts pointing to a radically different kingdom that is both now and coming.

“…It is not so much the case that God has a mission for his church in the world but that God has a church for his mission in the world. Mission was not made for the church; the church was made for mission - God's mission.”

              -Chris Wright – The Mission of God 

When we understand the gravity of God’s mission we begin to realize that the “mission field” is actually everywhere including our own streets, our neighborhoods, towns and cities – mission exists wherever there exists brokenness and a void or rejection of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. Since we know this world will remain broken and afflicted by sin until Jesus returns, as God's people we always live in the context of mission; we can ignore it but it exists.

Because of this reality, I think the church in America needs a perspective shift. How are we going to reach the growing number of unchurched folks? I think it is by bringing God’s church to them. We have to realize once we walk out the doors of our local church, get into our cars and drive home, God’s church has actually just scattered into neighborhoods, workplaces, families, and coffee shops all over the place. We are the church and God wants to use us to reach those who don’t know Him. I think every follower of Jesus needs to start to think of themselves as missionaries to the space God has placed them.

Thinking like missionaries in our own cities

While ministering in a culture that is incredibly unchurched has its difficulties it has given me a priceless gift. It has trained me to think like a missionary. I cannot proceed with ministry like business as usual. Like a missionary, I have to understand the culture, understand how folks think, what they value, what the idols of the culture are and what the everyday rhythms of life are - all so I can better communicate the Gospel story into theirs.

Assumptions must be thrown out

With the increasing number of “nones” comes an increasing ignorance of the story of God. This means we can no longer assume folks know the story, know Kingdom values, know the Gospel and so we need to learn how to start from scratch. It is not like the “good ol’ days” where preachers were calling back prodigal sons and trying to wake up an apathetic church (while that still exists.) More often than before we are starting in a different place. Therefore assumptions are not helpful (they usually aren’t) when it comes to talking to people about Jesus. Last year, I had a conversation with a guy for about 3 hours. For the first couple hours I just listened to his story (trying not to assume). I learned that he had some brief experience with the church when he was younger. At 25 years old he mostly understood disconnected beliefs and a few rules that Christians followed. That was his starting point. So I chose to start at the beginning and explain the narrative of scripture. Starting with Creation, our fall, the then walked through the story of Israel, our redemption in Jesus and then the promise of new creation. I explained the framework for the Christian world view as a narrative and I will never forget how he responded. He said, “I have never heard the story before.” We cannot assume that our friends, neighbors and coworkers know the story. There is an ever increasing possibility that they have never heard it.

We need to be fluent in the Gospel

If we are going to be missionaries to our own culture then we need to be fluent in the Gospel. If we are Americans then we surely already have the language of our culture down, but are we fluent in our understanding and articulation of the Gospel?

I went to a liberal arts college and it was required that we take a couple of semesters of a foreign language. I chose Spanish because I had already taken some in high school and I could still ask someone “where’s the bathroom?” So I took two semesters of Spanish. I studied, did the homework and by God’s grace I passed. But you know what? Now I don’t remember any of it. I couldn’t converse with anyone in Spanish. I could probably just mumble, “Where’s the bathroom?” And that only gets me so far in life. I think there is a parallel with how we treat the Gospel. We learn that Jesus is the only way to be restored back to God, we repeat a prayer (pass a test) and we move on – only to realize later that we can barely articulate the beauty of the Gospel and what it truly is. The Gospel is not something we move on from after salvation. Instead, it is a foundational truth that we need to continually immerse ourselves in and preach to ourselves so that it permeates all aspects of life. We need to be fluent for ourselves but also to articulate it to our culture. If we are going to be missionaries to our culture we need to be able to recognize how the Gospel story intersects with the stories of our friends, our family and our neighbors. What is ironic is that missionaries sent to a different culture need to learn the language so they can effectively communicate the Gospel – but in America we already know the language, instead I think we need to become fluent in the Gospel of grace.

In light of our changing culture we must learn to be carriers of the Gospel to all spheres of influence that we have. We can no longer assume our culture will produce Christian-esque people and that is perfectly fine because only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can transforms hearts and culture, rather than legislated morality. Now more than ever we need to be missionaries to our own nation as we continue to proclaim Jesus in word and how we live.  Let us embrace this role as we move forward with the love and grace that we were shown in Christ.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Rhythms – Practicing the Ways & Values of God’s Kingdom

Mission Trip Syndrome
If you were a youth group kid like me I am sure you are very familiar with “mission trips.” Growing up my high school youth group had a few mission trips that we went on every year and I can remember them like they were yesterday. I think I remember them so vividly because they were these monumental spiritual experiences for me. I have plenty of funny memories like being chased by llamas in Ecuador -you wouldn't think it, but a herd (pack? ... flock?) of llamas is pretty scary if they are charging you down a mountainside. But what I remember most was how impacted many of us were. It seemed like every time God touched peoples' lives on those trips. Without fail kids would come home on a “spiritual high." Unfortunately, in a similar pattern we cynically began to believe that it rarely lasted. People would be convicted or encounter God in a profound way and we would all confidently declare that things would be different – that we were finally going to take this Christian thing seriously. It had to be because of what we had experienced together. Some people had lasting change – but many of us slowly moved back to life as usual, like nothing happened except we went on a really fun trip with some good memories. I have since become less cynical and I sincerely believe people had real experiences on my high school trips. Real enough experiences where macho football guys were crying while sharing around a campfire (in front of girls no less).

 I think these experiences pose a big question in youth ministry or really any short term trip. It makes us wonder what’s up with these “spiritual highs” and why do they often wear off for so many of us?

Well, let’s just think for a minute what is actually happening on these trips. You gather a bunch of kids (or adults), take them out of the distractions of everyday life and have them spend a ton of time together. They are sharing meals, stories and experiences. They are consistently worshiping together, praying together. They are spending personal time with God and journaling. And all of this is usually in the context of serving others. People get to experience a week of practicing rhythms of God’s kingdom with others. On a mission trip our context is drastically different than everyday life and it can have a profound impact on us. 

          I think it is because, as Christians, these are some of the rhythms of a redeemed life, rhythms of new creation.  So when we live that out, especially in community, we feel alive – we feel connected with God and with other believers. Kingdom and Mission are never meant to be an isolated event; these concepts were not meant to be designated for a couple weeks during a trip. God’s Kingdom Mission is meant to be lived out as everyday rhythms of the Church. God wants to use us in everyday life, in everyday moments and relationships. We must escape the paradigm that we participate in episodes of Christianity and instead train ourselves to live by the everyday rhythms of God’s Kingdom. Unfortunately, many of us boil our faith down to a series of religious events or episodes and we do not know how to follow God in the simple, the mundane the everyday parts of life.

Moving from an episodic faith to a rhythmic faith
If you have made it this far you probably noticed that I used the word “rhythm." alot. So what do I mean by this word rhythm?

In a book called Missional Small Groups by Scott Boren he describes cultural habits and norms with the term “rhythm." He believes that we all live according to life rhythms – some are good and some fail to offer much that is worth listening to. Most of us don't really pay much attention to the rhythms that are shaping our life – they are either so ingrained in our lives or our culture that they are sometimes difficult to recognize. Each culture has its own set of rhythms that they knowingly or unknowingly march to the beat of.  It could include rhythms of working, eating, playing, learning, gathering and creating. In short, they are the practices, habits, disciplines and routines that we regularly do in our day to day lives.

For many folks in America our rhythms revolve around individualistic pursuits – so our rhythms might be established for the pursuit of things like success, wealth, value, identity and consuming the next thing. Our cultural rhythms for the most part revolve around the idea that the world and everything in it exists to aid me in pursuing my goals, dreams and success. Whether we want to admit it or not our framework for our everyday stuff generally revolves around pursuing what might make us feel happy and fulfilled.

Some rhythms are harmful, some are neutral and some are beneficial but as Christians any of our rhythms can have Gospel life breathed into it.

The folks at Soma Communities in Tacoma, WA say it like this, “Rhythms don’t seek to add more to our schedule but instead we want to bring Gospel intentionality to the things we are already doing.”

What that means is that Kingdom rhythms aren’t a new “to-do list” but instead, it is a new framework that begs the question, “What would the everyday rhythms of my life look like if the gospel of God’s redemptive Kingdom permeated every facet of my life?”

I think if the church wants to be effective in our changing culture it has to recognize the rhythms of the Gospel – the rhythms of God’s kingdom so that it can effectively “march to the beat of a different drum." When we start living by the rhythms of God’s Kingdom we function as instruments that play God’s kingdom song for the world hear. And a church playing that song together puts on display a different kingdom - One ruled by a good King who is making all things new. 

Rhythms can help bridge the gap between our beliefs and values with how we actually live.

      So if you go to church it probably has a mission and set of values, whether you know or not. It might be written on pamphlets, business cards, on the website or something else saying something like "this is who we are, this is what we are here for, and these are the things that we value as a community." Nearly every church has “values” and if you go to a church you will most likely read them or hear them in a service and you will probably nod along in agreement. We like to agree on beliefs, purpose and values and it is good to come into agreement on those things; they're important. But one thing that I have noticed is that it is hard for people to know what to do with values beside agreeing with them. There can often be a disconnect in how our values affect our everyday life. How do values go from floating on a church website to moving into the heart and actions of a believer? That is what rhythms are – they are our values with some flesh on them. They are the ways in which we can tangibly walk out the things we believe and value in the reality and messiness of life. When we begin to practice the rhythms of God’s Kingdom then espoused values become actual values because we are actively integrating them into life through intentional practices. So if you value community, what are the communal rhythms you can practice in life? How about things such as sharing meals, inviting, celebrating with, encouraging, creating and playing with others. If you value justice, think of ways to incorporate rhythms of justice into your life. Rhythms are the ways that we intentionally put some flesh on our values, beliefs and convictions. That is the whole idea of incarnational living. The church seeks puts flesh on the teachings, the values and truth of Christ and His Kingdom (albeit imperfectly) so that God can be known in word and deed. And the best way I have come to understand that is by practicing rhythms of Jesus and His Kingdom. 

Examples of Kingdom Rhythms
So the concept of rhythms may sound a little strange to you still so let me try and explain through a couple of examples. 

Rehearsing the Gospel – We are a forgetful species. We give the goldfish a bum rap, but we have the ability to forget something as life-changing and beautiful as the Gospel and how it applies to our life. Somehow we are able comprehend the incredible truth claims of scripture, believe them and then live as if we had never heard them in the first place. I don't get it, I don't like it, but I recognize it in my own life. We have to be people who regularly preach the Gospel to ourselves and to each other. We need to be consistently shaped by the beautiful good news that we are no longer enemies of God but Sons and Daughters who get to approach His throne with confidence addressing Him as father – all through the humble, loving and gracious sacrifice of our King Jesus. I mean, how does this stuff not rock our world every single day? But if you are anything like me, then you need the constant reminder. I have found that if I don't intentionally remind myself, then I can let the stress, the pain, the difficulty of my life close in and choke out the peace, security and purpose that comes from knowing God views me as beloved. What does this look like as a rhythm? It can look like a lot of things – maybe you start every new day with a verse that captures the truth of who you are in the Gospel. Maybe you journal about the different ways the Gospel affects aspects of your life (identity, purpose, finances, relationships, career, etc.) Maybe it is through a worship song that articulates the Gospel to your soul. Whatever it is, a crucial rhythm of every Christian needs to be saturating our hearts, minds and our whole being with Gospel truth.

Eating – Somewhere along the line eating has become less communal and more… um primal. Unfortunately it wouldn't be too uncommon for you to see me shoving a burrito in my face while driving because I'm having a “busy day.” Maybe you can relate because for a lot of us a meal has been reduced to the lowest denominator - which is just to get some calories into our bodies. While this is certainly a good reason to eat – I think with some intentionality it can be so much more. Meal time in Jesus’ day was almost a sacred time. In fact, in some Jewish writings the table was affectionately called “little temple” because this was a place people gathered. It was a time to slow down, spend time with others, learn about each other’s live and celebrate God’s faithfulness. Using the most human, primal rhythm of eating (not sure if you knew this but we all need to do it – or we die) we can actually share life with others, learn the stories of co-workers on a lunch break, build relationships with people who are different than us or don’t know Jesus and strengthen relationships with friends and family. 

So, are you able to identify the rhythms of your life? How can you infuse even the most mundane rhythms of your life with Gospel/Kingdom intentionality? How might you shift eating into an invitational and communal rhythm? How can you infuse your work with Kingdom purpose? How can you use the current rhythms of your family to help disciple your kids? Jesus calls us to a life of following him, not episodes of religion - I pray for myself and anyone that may read this that we learn to follow Jesus it the simplicity and chaos of everyday life. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A New Lifelong Friend

This is one of the friends I made while living in Colorado. He is like many Coloradians, he appreciates hiking in the mountains, sleeping outside, growing a killer beard and even eating organic. I met him hiking a 14er called Quandary Peak.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Update from the Mountains

Hello Everyone,

I wanted to write an update for anyone who is interested and what better medium than our old, dusty, unused blog!

Suzanna and I just celebrated two years since our move to Clark, Colorado and we have thought back on all the memories, relationships and the faithfulness of God. One thing we both emphatically agree on is that it has been a wonderful two years. This place really does feel like home to us now.

Over the last few months we have had some doors open, some close and some really great opportunities outside of Clark. There was an opportunity on Colorado's "front-range," one back in the Midwest and even something out of the country. And while these were good and exciting opportunities, Suzanna and I were struggling with leaving this place. It just didn't seem like we were supposed to leave yet. There is so much opportunity for the local church in Clark to grow and develop and we wanted to be a part of what God is already doing here, in this unlikely place.

We are excited to announce that we are going to continue our work with North Routt Community Church. God has already moved in exciting ways as our small rural church grows and become more stable. We feel that God is calling us to stay put and help move the church to new places and cast a bigger vision of who God has us to be and what He is calling us to do in a town that desperately needs to know the love and grace God has for us in Jesus.

So here is what the plan is for this blog moving forward - it will still be used as a space to update friends and family on our journey here but I will also use it as a space to share the thoughts, struggles,  joys and all the lessons being learned while doing ministry in rural Colorado. I am excited to share more about our adventures here from raising chickens, hiking mountains to our most important journey which is partnering with God as He develops a local expression of His people right here in an isolated mountain town.

So, we hope you follow along with us as God takes us further on this crazy journey.

Suzanna and I just want to thank you for all the different ways you have supported us over the last two years -  through prayer, finances, letting us crash at your homes, and everything in between. We feel truly loved and supported by so many from all over the world.

Dave & Suz

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Updates & Stories

Hi Everyone!

I hope you are all doing well! As I write this the sun is shining which is AWESOME - since most of February has been overcast. The Elk are out in full force as we drive to and from steamboat each week (they like to steal food from all of the cows). And things are going great. There is a lot to update you on as we move into March, so here are a few things to catch you up.

Christmas Eve (better late than never)

Many of you know already but our Christmas Eve Service went great! I preached at two services- one further north in the old Hahn's peak village school house, and one at NRCC in the charter school. For several years if has been a community tradition for some of the folks that live in Hahn's peak village to have a Christmas Eve service at the historic school house and this year I was asked to speak. It was a lot of fun and we actually used the school bell to call people in - which was ... Awesome! We had about 30 people show up to that at about 5PM. Then 2.5 hours later we had our service for North Routt Community Church and it was a blast! It was an absolutely packed house (We ran out of chairs) of a 100 people and we were able to join together and celebrate the birth of our King. It was really special. Here are a few pictures from the night.

A few people in the back (mostly from the Ranch) were troopers as they stood most of the night. 

There is Andrew (left) & Bubba (Right) leading us in worship. (2 of 6 who helped lead us) 

More worship!
Singing "Silent Night" with candles lit

It was an awesome night to see the community gather like that! Right after service Suz and I packed up and jetted off to Indianapolis/Chicago for the holidays, which brings us into another story...

The nightmare that was Christmas travels (At least Denny's is open on Christmas day)

Suz and I were all hopped up on caffeine and ready to drive through the night (we had left Clark around 11PM). The plan was to drive straight to Kansas City so we could caravan with Suzanna's sister and brother in-law,  Bekah and Andrew. But sometimes plans don't work out. Instead we didn't even make it to Kansas before our Subaru said, "you know what? I don't really feel like driving anymore" - which sounded a lot like our engine popping, followed by a horrible clicking noise. Long story short we broke down at 6AM, Christmas day in Stratton Colorado - which with no disrespect, it is in the middle of nowhere... So we get the car towed to Burlington CO which actually had some shops. We get our car to 1 of their two shops and have our very nice tow guy drop us off at a mom and pop motel. It was so "mom and pop" that the owner (an older lady) came out in a bath robe because she had been in the shower (haha). After she heard our sob story (I also told her I was a pastor) she took pity on us and gave us a room for free. It was incredibly nice and took a little of the sting out of a pretty crummy Christmas. In between naps and HGTV  we tried to figure out how the heck we were going to get to Indianapolis without a car (The shop was closed for the day and I was pretty sure the engine was shot) and no rental car for 200+ miles from where we were. So we did the only thing we could- we walked to the nearby gas station/Dennys to eat our feelings...And because of the emotional state we were in - it was glorious. However, although we went back to our room full we still didn't know what to do. At this point the family knew we were stuck and Andrew (brother in-law) offered to come get us and drive us back to KC - A total of 12 HOURS! Even though we felt bad, we accepted and he came and brought us back to KC and from there we all decided to drive through the night again (I know, what were we thinking). They let Suz and I borrow their second car and we hit the road. Well to close the story we got to Indy and Chicago, so it all worked out. I turns out the Subaru blew it's engine and needed a replacement. We decided to go ahead and replace it since the cost was much less than its worth. We would have never been able to afford it if it wasn't for the generosity of family that graciously chose to foot the bill for us and we could not be more thankful! So that was the condensed Saga of our trip back to the Midwest

Since we've been back 

In the months that we have been back a lot has happened. We are so thankful for the ways that God has worked in and through our community here. We had one of my mentors Keith Carlson come and stay with us, which was a great encouragement. We are continuing to meet every week for service and every month for community dinners in each others homes. We now want to have a community outreach dinner at the charter school for anyone and everyone who wants to come and eat with us. We are thinking of doing that every other month and advertising it in the community. Also this month, I participated in a 2 day training program called ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) because suicide is a surprising, yet glaring issue within our community. Also NRCC is in the process of partnering with a group called REPS (Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide) to run a clinic up in Clark for the whole community to be trained in ways to be aware of warning signs and how we can ask questions and connect others to help and resources. Suicide is such an area of brokenness here and we want the Church to step into that brokenness to offer love and hope to those who feel hopeless. And to close with, we finally got the internet at home!!! We were without the internet at home for about a month and a half, which was preeeetty awful. So since we are hooked up to the world wide web you can now expect more updates from us in the near future.

Please let us know if you have anymore questions, comment below or email me at
We also have a Facebook page for the Church that will give some info on whats happening at the church, so be sure to check it out if you are interested!

Thanks so much for your love and support,

Dave & Suz

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Church Update

Hi Everyone,

        I hope you are all doing well and had an awesome Thanksgiving! Suzanna and I are feeling the effects of our first winter in the mountains. We are happy to report that we're doing just fine after our first few weeks, which is a good sign because we have about 6 more months... But both of our cars now have snow tires on (I bet there are a few of you that didn't know those existed) and we have a full supply of canned goods for hot chili's and stews, so we are ready for it!

        It is hard to believe Suzanna and I have already been out here for 7 months. Time has flown by and we feel blessed as we look back on all that God has done out here. Here are a few updates on how things have been going up here in North Routt.


Young Adult Group- We have been in the "off-season" for Vista Verde and lot of seasonal people are not returning and most of the winter returners are home until mid-December. So our group is about 1/3rd the size from the Summer. So we have decided to move from the charter school and instead we meet at our house or our friends place. There are 8 of us that meet every week to share a meal, worship, discuss the Book of Matthew, and then pray together. As we have moved into each others homes, with a smaller group we have grown a lot closer and the conversations are very rich. This group has been a HUGE blessing for Suzanna and I to build great relationships with people our age.

Community Gatherings- On the last Friday of every month we gather in someones home to share a meal, worship and pray together. We have had two so far and they have been a blast! Each time About 20 people were crammed into the downstairs of our cabin for a whole mess food and bunch of delicious sides. We worship together and spend time in prayer. It has been a really meaningful experience for us and we have had a lot of fun. The reason we started this is so that we could be intentional about how we do community. I had preached about community from the book of Acts and I thought that it would be good to actually try and live out the things that we read. We wanted to share our lives with one another in each others homes, with good food, worship and prayer. The plan is to continue this intentional practice more frequently as we share our lives together more and more as a community.


Discipleship- This has been a huge passion on my heart for the last few years. This passion has caused me to wrestle with the same question, Is the church in America making disciples of Jesus? Although, it is happening in pockets for sure, I would say as a whole, not so much. It seems as the church we have either neglected the great commission or we just assume we are fulfilling it through Sunday school and sermons. So I have been reading and developing (and taking notes from Grace Community Church) what it might look like if we got serious about making disciples like Jesus did. So the plan is to invite a handful of passionate disciples into a group study (with 12 core practices of discipleship) that we practice as a group, for about a year. Then after that year we are sent out to go and disciple 2-3 people in our lives through an intentional, consistent and committed relationship, where the "discipler" walks alongside, teaches and models what it looks like to follow Jesus in everyday life. For those of you who don't think this is suuuper boring here is an word doc that explains it in a little more detail. I am actually going to share this with the pastors of Steamboat in our next pastors meeting. My dream is that there could be "discipleship hubs" all over steamboat that are developing devoted disciples of Jesus. I think relational discipleship could could have a huge impact in a place like steamboat (which is 85% un-churched).

Small Groups- Another thing I am passionate about is small groups. Getting the church into close-knit groups that do life together and learn what it means to follow Jesus and live out the gospel in tangible ways. We want our community to be marked by the things have changed us, and shaped us as God's people. I think small groups are a great platform for a group of disciples to come together for fellowship, and to press into each others lives. I believe it is the kind of environment where the body of Christ can explore and practice what it means to be the church through gathering together and implementing the teachings of Christ in the context of genuine community (at least that is the hope!!)

Outreach- Over the past few months God has been showing me the different and unique needs up here for people. Almost every Wednesday I eat a pizza (pie and pint night!!) at the bar in the Roadhouse that is right down the road from our house (yes we have a couple of restaurants here). Every once in a while a local guy will share his life with me. A couple of them have given me a glimpse into some of the addiction, depression and loneliness that folks experience up here. There is a lot of hurt and brokenness that manifests itself in substance abuse and a crazy high suicide rate, which supposedly has continued to rise each year. So at NRCC we want to address these areas of brokenness and hopelessness with compassion, love and hope that's only found in Jesus. I have been able to connect with the principle at the charter school in Clark (where we meet for church) and he is excited about partnering in some way to address the needs of our community. In order to do that we want to develop an outreach team that can plan events, gatherings and initiatives that take intentional steps toward living out the gospel in more tangible ways and serving those around us, so that we can be salt and light to the community of Clark Colorado.

As we look back on our first 7 months here we can see just how much God has blessed us with relationships, ministry partners and loads of encouragement even in the face of challenges. We are so grateful for your continued support and prayer as God in his grace, continues to teach us how to lead others in humility. If you have any specific questions please don't hesitate to email me at

Thank you all so much!

Dave & Suzanna

PS: Stay tuned for a picture update from Suzanna

Monday, September 16, 2013

A New Addition... And It's Not Another Puppy!!

Well, I bet you think Suzanna is pregnant... sorry to disappoint.

Even though our new addition to Colorado is not another puppy but a human being, he is in fact a full grown man.

Meet Andrew Fackler

This is us hiking in the Zirkel Wilderness! 
Some of you already know but a friend of mine from Indianapolis moved out mid-August to work at the Ranch and help organize and lead our worship team. 

Back Story

I met Andrew when I was an intern at Access the young adult ministry at Grace Community Church. He was the worship team leader during my internship and I got to know him more and more especially as he joined our small group. Over the past year, we became good friends. 

Last March I went backpacking in the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. It was a last hurrah with my Indianapolis hiking buddies, Andrew and Kyle Affolder. We hiked for a few days and it was a great trip, even in spite of some real nasty weather and cold nights. One day Andrew and I were talking and out of the blue I asked Andrew to move out to Colorado. Our Conversation went something like this...

Me- "Hey, you should move out to Colorado and basically do what you are doing right now and get paid for it and then you can help lead worship for the church"

Andrew- "Get paid to hike and stuff?" 

Me- "Yeah, like guide trips and stuff at the Ranch"

Andrew- "Yeah, that would be sweet... but I don't want to just give up on culinary school. I want to do something that would at least be in that field"

....3 Hours Later....

Andrew- "Hey, you said the Ranch has really good food there, right?"

Me- "Uh huh, like really fancy, hoity toity a good way"

Andrew- "So they have chefs there then?"

Me- "yeah, really good ones!"

Andrew- "Hmm, maybe you could talk with the manager or something" 

-End Scene-

          Saturday August 17th Andrew hopped on a flight with Suz and I to Denver to start his new job as a line cook at Vista Verde Ranch. So far he loves it! In his first week he worked 60hrs, road a horse, rock climbed, hiked in the Zirkel wilderness and cliff jumped into mountain lakes and he led worship at church and for our young adult group. Since then he has continued to pour into the Church by leading worship and helping in any way he can. He has been a great addition to our ministry team. It is so cool to see how God has brought so many things together, so don't be surprised if any of you get called to come out here to help NRCC!

PS. He also fries up some mighty tasty trout while backpacking!