Gifts

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Imagine getting a present. In fact, imagine getting a lot of presents. Imagine a whole Christmas tree with dozens of presents underneath it and every single one of them is for you. You run up and you start to open them, and they are full of things that give you joy and things that bring you hope and things that bring you knowledge and things that encourage you and things that make you wealthier or more powerful or whatever it is that needs to be added to your life to make you better.

It is a happy scene - you and your Christmas tree and your presents. Now I want you to pause the scene, and zoom out. I want you to zoom out, and as you do, you'll see you're in a nice living room in a nice home. But now that you've zoomed out this far, if you push play again, you will start to hear some sounds beyond your wrapping paper ripping. Zoom out further, and you start to realize that your Christmas tree is in the middle of a war zone. You notice the rubble. And the fires. Over there is a makeshift hospital where people are moaning and crying. Men with guns are trying to kill each other and desperate mothers are crying for the children they may never see again.

Your house, your living room, your Christmas tree is in the middle of a war zone.

Now that you know that, you have two choices.

You can either take all these presents you've just opened and hide them - shut the windows, close the blinds, lock the doors, and don't let the outside know what you have so they don't ask for it. Keep it for yourself.

Or you can take your gifts and go make a difference with them. 

Rewind the scene for me, if you will. Dig back through some of that discarded wrapping paper that your presents were wrapped in. Find a tag. To: You. From: God.

These gifts are your callings, and your callings come from God. To be a mother or father, employer or employee, teacher or student, leader or follower. These are amazing gifts, and when we receive amazing gifts we are excited to open them up and find out what they are. What are the callings that God has given you - and what will you do with them? How will you use them and fulfill them and grow in them? How will they surprise and delight and satisfy you?

Romans 12:1 | Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to the Lord. This is your spiritual act of worship. 

- Pastor Kent Reeder

Compete

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There are hundreds, if not thousands, of groups to which you can donate in the midst of a disaster relief project. Some are massive organizations with complex processes. Some are simple groups with a singular focus. 

This is a good thing, because the devastation that a disaster brings demands a wide-ranging, multi-pronged approach. It is the best way for humans, who are limited by their imperfection, to cover all the bases. It's an inverted version of "divide and conquer."

This is a bad thing, too, when it is approached or considered wrongly. When you see a lot of different entities working within the same arena, it is natural to start to make comparisons, which then lead you to turn helping into a competition - which it most certainly is not. That being said, it is quite frankly very human to do this, because the world around you is comparison based: marketing demands comparison, and marketing is what develops the content that assails your senses and informs your biases. Unfortunately, requests for donations to a cause end up seeming an awful lot like marketing (which makes sense - it's the way to get attention), leading you to respond to them like you would to marketing.

So, what do you do? How can a person like yourself avoid the natural tendency to turn even charitable causes and philanthropic endeavors into a competition? (A competition in which, by the way, everyone is going to lose.) 

It's not simple to do, but it is simple to understand.

Don't make it about you. 

It makes sense, at least a little. It's how you started this journey. You (hopefully) weren't planning to donate "for yourself." You were looking into donating in response to what you'd heard other people were going through. You wanted to pitch in, help make a difference, and do unto others. Then you started to take a closer look, and you decided you didn't want to waste your money, to seem foolish in your giving, to be the one who backed the wrong horse - and suddenly it was all about you. 

Those people who are in need, the ones whose lives have been forever changed by forces outside their own control, they're the ones who inspired you to want to help in the first place. Their plight, their stories, their pain - focus on these, and the competition of it starts to fade away. 

But not completely.

Right? Because when your donating is focused on those affected, there are still measurable, comparable facts that seem a lot like competition. You can still measure, you can still compare, the number of people who are getting help and the amount of help they are getting. And if you're honest, you know that the moment competition becomes part of this, people start to lose - and there isn't room for losing in responses to tragedies like this. 

So, don't make it about you. Simple to understand, hard to do.
Even harder? Don't make it about them. (Wait, what?)

Make it about Jesus. 

I'm not saying you should send Bibles to hungry people who need beds. I'm not saying that you should give to a local congregation to help fix a regional catastrophe. I'm not even saying you should give exclusively to faith-based relief organizations. I'm saying, instead, that your donating will win if you make it about Jesus. 

When your donating is about Jesus, the competition, the comparison, and the one-upsmanship all fade away. So do any temptation to give up or become cynical or procrastinate in your giving. In Christ, there is no room for these - not because he's demanding and has an impossible standard, but because he is the opposite of those temptations. He is the one who could win all competition and yet made himself the lowest of the losers. He is the one with the positive outlook because he knows that sin, evil, death, pain, and catastrophe have been defeated. He embodies and empowers hope because there is no need for despair when the generous and merciful Christ is your focus. 

He is the winner of all competition who has never held a trophy, because he gave it to us to share with others.

Bring your donation to the cross of Jesus. Hold it out to him, and listen as he says to you, "Use this to share my love, would you?" Turn around, and invest it, quickly and carefully, not for you, not for them, but for him. If we could all do this, we'd do as well as imperfect humanity possibly can.

There is no best donation - until, in and through Jesus, all donation is made best.

1 Peter 4:10-11 | Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 

- Pastor Kent Reeder

Nazi

This world does not have to be at war, but sin means it will not be at peace. 

The broadest strokes with which we can paint are less than a pixel to God.

You have the tools to see that part of the universe in which God has placed you. 

You have the tools to change that part of the universe in which God has placed you.

Hope that depends on earthly peace will become despair.

Hope that is not specific is fantasy.

God has not called you to be selfish. 

Christ's payment for all sin guarantees that no living person is irredeemable.

Grace is more important than justice. Both are more important than you. 

There is no reason to hate someone in light of the unconditional love of Christ.

God's heart breaks for the victim and the oppressor, but for different reasons.

The specific message of Jesus' work is the only change catalyst.

All other messages are the spectrum of selfishness.

Christians share the gospel to spread peace.

Christians, share the gospel to spread peace. 

1 Timothy 4:7-10 | Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.

- Pastor Kent Reeder

Crazy

What if you ran

  • every thought you had,
  • every priority you made,
  • every word you said,

through the idea that "Jesus lived, died, and rose again"?

That is, what if, when you were deciding whether or not to exercise in the morning, to skip lunch, to knock one more thing off your task list, to scroll a little further into Facebook, you asked yourself, "How is this affected by the fact there was a pivotal moment in history, a moment at which a person literally conquered death?" 

At first, you might think that you'd look crazy. Life involves tons of decisions - can you run all of them through that filter? There are terabytes of information that your senses process each day - can all of that be subject to the resurrection? Aren't some things just not at all related to Jesus and his work? Wouldn't you seem really weird if people knew that the words you were about to say to them came out of the fact that you believed that Jesus was graphically murdered and then walked out of his own tomb?

It would come across as crazy to be so consumed by the resurrection, right? 

But then again, the fact that a crucified person rose from death is kind of...

And if it really happened, living as though it didn't (or as though it didn't have dramatic impact on everything) would be kind of...

Not to mention, if that resurrection means that sin, which caused death, can't dictate your life anymore and that you don't have to fear condemnation anymore and that you can fight back the devil with just the name of Jesus that's kind of...

If it works, who am I to call it...

- Pastor Kent

Romans 6:13 | Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.

 

Front-Door

A church website has, for some time, been the front door to the church. 

Many surveys have indicated that before anyone crosses the threshold of a church building, they check out the website to see if it will be the kind of place they're looking for. Whether they are concerned about style, ethnic makeup, doctrine, or denomination, the website typically gives them enough of an idea to satisfy. (If it doesn't...they don't go.)

Illumine's website certainly serves that purpose, but there's a bigger idea that the recent redesign is meant to make possible. Should the website be a front door? Yes. But what if it could also be the foyer, and the living room. What if it could even be the kitchen? (This all builds off of a metaphor that organizations use to talk about how deeply people commit. Sometimes, it's just the doorstep, and they're out. Sometimes they go all the way, getting so comfortable they start pitching in and helping out in the kitchen.)

I'd like illuminechurch.com to make that possible. 

This website should be a place where you can benefit from the ministry efforts Illumine offers at very nearly the same level as you would if you were at all the live, physical events. If you want to worship, do it now. Watch/listen to a sermon. Sing with the music. If you want to learn, nothing should stop you. Dig into the resources. Follow the links provided. If you want to serve, you should be able to do it from your computer. Become informed. Contribute. Knock some tasks off of lists. 

It's not all here yet. But it is coming. This church doesn't need to be limited by location. Come see Jesus, in worship, in education, in community service. Come see life better. 

Welcome to the new illuminechurch.com. 

- Pastor Kent Reeder

P.S. (Are these allowed on blogs?) 500 years ago, minus a few months, a monk started with the front door of a church and changed the world. I'm not saying this website will do that, but the internet is changing the way these front doors work...

Where

Sometimes we tell people to "bloom where they are planted." Sometimes we tell people "it's about the journey." Sometimes we tell people we're proud of them because they're "going places."

Location is a hard thing to get our heads around, especially as Christians. We can confuse settings with the things that happen in them - even doing this with miracles of God. We've seen people be baptized in this spot, over and over again, and we can worry about whether it will be different if they get baptized in another. We receive Jesus' body and blood in the same sanctuary, over and over again, and we can feel weird if we experience it in a home or outdoors. 

We do the same when we start churches. Should it be here? Is this place better? Will that chunk of ground lead to more conversions than this one? 

In a very real way, location matters. Jesus didn't stand still and preach. He went to people. The apostles didn't work simply to create attractive content that people would come to experience. They left what they knew and went to find people. 

They did this because there are simply going to be places that, for one good reason or another, are a little more conducive to the human aspect of gospel preaching. (The Holy Spirit always does his work correctly.) So, are we finding them? Are we even looking? 

As Illumine, Rock Hill seems to be nearing permanency of campus, it is time to look out. Where are we going to go next? What makes the most sense? Where can we convert the most people? 

It is also important that those in Rock Hill not get confused about the location they have. This location is a helpful thing, for sure. But it isn't going to be the best location in Rock Hill to convert every single one of the lost. We're going to use this building as a center from which we go out into the community and serve. 

So let us bloom where we are planting. Let us go on big journeys for souls. And let's see if we can make this thing continue to go places. 

- Pastor Kent

Moonshot

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Who needs the moon?

The world spent a tremendous amount of time, effort, and money in the race to put a person on the moon. Heaven is further than the moon, and it takes more to get someone there.

In order to reach the moon, people had to do math that no one had ever done. There were problems that hadn't existed and questions that hadn't been asked, and figuring out both the issues and the solutions was necessary to making the mission work. It required using tools that already existed in entirely new ways - or inventing entirely new tools. 

Your effort to show someone Jesus is like a mission to the moon. In order to get the message of the Gospel to them (to get them to heaven,) you're going to have to do preaching and teaching and loving and caring that no one has ever done, at least not in that specific way. 

If you do it, though - if you push past the edges of what you've done or know how to do - if you let the hard questions come and search for the answers - if you learn to let your generosity counterbalance the awkwardness - if you find 372 ways to explain the same concept - if you lie awake and pray until you can't keep your eyes open anymore - and then, using the words you say or things you do God leads that person to believe... 

Who needs the moon?

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Luke 15:8 | “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?

Choked

God's gifts - his Word, his sacraments, his Law & Gospel - are means to a beautiful end: His redeemed people, strengthened by his grace, showing his love to those who need it. When we worship, we get an opportunity to find refuge in these gifts, spiritually rejuvenated as we receive his promise to never fail us. 

It's amazing when this works. I hope you've had a chance to see it. When people of God, secure in his love for them, are confronted with unique or jarring or complicated opportunities to show the earnest, yearning love of Jesus to someone who is truly, fundamentally in need of it...few experiences are better. 

It honestly gets me choked up. When you hear that Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, gave you his body and blood so that you could be strong for every situation - what can be better? When you see someone baptized and know that they are being made into a totally new creation that can now live love it could never live before - what is more special?

Maybe you think it's dumb to get emotional about things, but at the same time I wonder if we just get choked up about the wrong things. Or, at least, that we don't get choked up about the right things. 

When God reaches down to you - yes, even to you - through his gifts, if we can stop for a second and dwell on how far he is going to get to you and how willing he is to cross that chasm, we'll realize that no situation, no opportunity to love, in which we find ourselves is too much to ask. He's done the hard part. He just gives us a chance to share what he has brought us with others.

I hope you get to be in an uncomfortable opportunity, where sharing Jesus' love requires you to dig deep. 

I hope you take that opportunity. 

I hope when you do, you get overcome (or at least nearly overcome) with emotion - not because you're so good, but because God is. 

Sensed

I have seen God's face - in the caring faces of my parents, in the loving smile of my spouse. 

I have heard his voice - in the careful guidance of teachers, in the honesty of leaders, in the laughter of a friend. 

I have felt his touch - in the embrace of a loved one, in the handshake of a mentor, in the encouraging nudge. 

I have tasted his cooking through my grandmother, I have smelled him in my grandfather's aftershave.  

Would that others could experience the same through me.
For I have sensed God - and I cannot get enough. 

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Psalm 150:6 | Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. 

 

Vital

It is vital for Christians to engage in acts of considerate service toward one another. 

Not just good. Not just nice. Vital.

These acts of service don't have to be programmed. It isn't "vital" for Christians to volunteer for the local food shelf or hospice house or transitional living facility or pregnancy counseling center or thrift store. There are good, but not the same as what's vital. It's also isn't required that people do acts of selfless service through their local congregation. Again, a good thing, but not the point of considerate service.

Organizations and drives and events are a means to an end, and it is this end that makes serving your community (a.k.a. community service, though those words in that order have somehow been transmorgified into something that sounds like a punishment) so important. 

Selfless acts of considerate service prove your soul is alive. (And a living soul is vital.) 

Apples and ears of corn don't make their respective stalks alive, but if they aren't happening those stalks lack life. They lack vitality. 

Anyone who makes the argument that economic success, happiness in the family, contentment with your lot in life, or physical health are the fruit of having faith in what Jesus has done is stopping short of the real point. Those are all signs of God's goodness in life, sure, but they're not the things that make life life. 

If you're interested in life that is truly alive, "be rich in good deeds" and "be generous and wiling to share." These are proof of life - and without proof of life, what are you?

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1 Timothy 6:17-19 | Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 

Scepters

This is one of many staffs that were made at Illumine's midweek Lent services, which are taking an open-house, artistic approach to meditating on the passion of Jesus. 

This is one of many staffs that were made at Illumine's midweek Lent services, which are taking an open-house, artistic approach to meditating on the passion of Jesus. 

The scepter has an interesting history. 

When people were nomadic, traveling around following the migration of herds, they developed ways to control the movement of the animals. The winner was the shepherd's crook - basically a stick for keeping the animals out of harm's way. As time continued to roll on, the guy with the most and largest animals had the biggest stick, and was the most powerful. 

As people settled down, the stick stuck. Rulers and powerful people held onto a staff, which gradually didn't need to have practical uses and was replaced with a stick made of precious metals and inlaid with jewels. Thus, the scepter became a symbol of power. 

When Christ was mocked and beaten by Pontius Pilate's soldiers, they gave him a robe, a crown, and a staff. It wasn't a fancy scepter, though - evidenced by the fact that the soldiers immediately took the staff and beat Jesus over the head with it, repeatedly. 

Matthew 27:29-30 | They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.

Remarkable. The king of the universe, beaten with his own staff. Authority turned upside-down. Power hidden in weakness, and weakness hiding in power. 

Christ's scepter, his symbol of power, is neither a jewel-covered stick nor a practical shepherd's crook. It's his LOVE. It both gives him his power and caused him to bleed. As God the Father watched Jesus suffer at the hands of the soldiers, this truth was confirmed: Christ is the one to whom all authority should be given, because he and he alone understands why authority exists. 

Authority does not exist for brow-beating others into submission - it exists for lovingly helping the wandering stay on a safe path. Your king loves you, enough to take the beatings you deal out by misusing authority and to gently remind you of the better way. 

One day, when Jesus comes into the throne room of heaven and all the saints and angels are singing, "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive honor, and wisdom, and glory, and power, and praise!" Christ will not need a crown or scepter or throne for us to know that he has all authority. His love will make it obvious. 

The scepter has an interesting history, and a promising future.

Smart

Interesting word, smart. 

On the one hand: intelligent.  

On the other: hurts. (Ouch, that smarts!)

Either way, smart is going to be part of your life. You decide what it means.

2 Peter 1:5-9 | 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. 

Intentional Reading

List the three things that frustrate you most right now.  

Choose one. Think of all the things you know the God says about that issue in the Bible.  

There are likely more things in the Bible about this than you can think of off the top of your head.  

If this is really one of the most frustrating things in your life, doesn't it make sense to find out what the Expert says about it? 

 -Pastor Kent Reeder 

God is the dots.

There's a minimum amount of knowledge necessary to be a believer in God, and it can be pretty difficult and dangerous to try and quantify exactly what that knowledge is. A person needs faith in Jesus as their Savior, which is something that even an infant child can have, somehow. The point is that a person doesn't need to understand the nuances of various churches' teachings on communion or historic liturgical structures to be headed into heaven. Just Jesus.

Because of this, people sometimes think they know enough about God. They've got the basics down and they don't need to worry or obsess over it any more. This is...unfortunate. 

Imagine that you knew that $1,000,000 was available to you. Would you stop there, with just that piece of knowledge? Would you think it was "good enough" to simply know about the money without doing anything to get it, to have it, to use it, to keep it, to take full advantage of it?

Getting to know God is like doing a connect-the-dot puzzle. You don't stop with one dot. Or two. You don't get to dot 37 of 38 and just stop. (It hurts my brain just to consider a connect-the-dot puzzle that sits incomplete like that.) 

Thanks to sin, evil, and consequence, life lies before you like a confusing jumble of dots. Connect them. God is the dots. 

Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. 
Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. 
Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. (Psalm 119:33-35)

  -Pastor Kent Reeder

 

Ache in My Bones

I have an ache in my bones to start new churches like Illumine in the Charlotte Metro Area. Watching God work through his Word and his people - if there are ways that I can be involved in the exponential increase of that miracle - please, Lord, let it happen.

Did you know Indian Land is the fastest growing part of the fastest growing part of South Carolina? Did you know Gastonia expects dozens of new housing developments in the coming years? Did you know Fort Mill is having to build even more schools because they can't keep up? Did you know that almost half of the population of Steele Creek has lived in the Carolinas for less than two years? 

It's not just about new movers, though. Rock Hill is averaging a shooting every week. One of the main reasons York County DSS case workers quit because they're overworked - too many cases coming in all the time. There are estimates that over 400 people in Rock Hill are homeless. Divorce lawyers aren't hurting for business. One of the most up-and-coming churches in this town just closed. People still ask me if Illumine is diverse - or if your skin has to be a certain color to belong there. 

It's not about new movers. It's about the sick who need a doctor. 

Sure, Rock Hill is in the Bible Belt, but in a real way the rest of the armor of God is missing - and we can bring it to them. 

We want to help so much it hurts. Can you feel the ache?

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:14-17)

-Pastor Kent Reeder

Yearbuilding

Two months in a row, Illumine is making up words.

Last month: Christmerosity. The kind of generosity you see at Christmas - inspired by Christ.

This month: Yearbuiliding. You want a successful 2017? Big surprise - so does everybody. Illumine doesn't exist (and wouldn't promise) to help you have a financially or physically helpful 2017 (even though that's the stuff most New Year's resolution are made of.) But spiritually? This is why Illumine is here. 

God wants you to have a spiritually beneficial 2017, too, and he's given you tools to help make that happen. The Bible, the sacraments, Christian community, prayer - all of these are gifts from God to help you grow closer to him. So, the question is: How will you use those gifts this year? 

Just so it's clear: a spiritually successful 2017 is very attainable. The tools exist, they're free, and they're for everyone. But you're a lot more likely to use them well if you make a plan, tell people about your plan, and then take it one step at a time. 

That's what this month is about around here. I hope you get to take advantage of it, and I know God has helpful things in store for your soul if you do. 

"“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?" (Luke 14:28)

-Pastor Kent Reeder

The Forgiven

Illumine's current sermon series, "The Given," uses God's promises to dissect this sentence: 
THE FORGIVEN ARE GIVEN THE GIVEN FOR GIVING.

Our first Sunday, which was 11/6/16, focused on the group of people known as "the forgiven." When Jesus died on the cross, he paid for all sins that ever had been or ever would be committed, but that doesn't mean that all sinners are part of the group we're thinking of in this series when we talk about "the forgiven." 

One of the ideas that exists in the meaning of "forgive" is to remove or to take away. When we think about "the forgiven" in our key sentence for this series, we're thinking about those who, through faith, have had their sins taken away from them. They don't hold onto them any more. 

Imagine you were on an island in the South Pacific, and you stumbled on an old US soldier who didn't know World War II had ended. Though the victory has been won, he was still carrying the weight of the war. The Gospel means that Jesus has one the victory, and faith in that Gospel means we don't have to be carrying the weight of our battles against sin anymore. That's what it looks like to be "the forgiven."

There's nothing that you can see or touch or hear that God has not given you as a gift - but let us not forget that it started with him taking something away. 

Psalm 103:12 |  ...as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

- Pastor Kent Reeder

How Big is Too Small?

Illumine has always existed to help start more churches, because more churches (should) make more disciples. In planning documents, the focus has been on the number 50: whenever Illumine reaches 50 member families, a few of those families get asked to take the leap and start a church in another location. 

At the moment, there are about 35 member families, and there are a few more in our membership course. If things keep going at the rate they are now, 50 families could be here pretty quickly. That's exciting. 

It also brings a few concerns to mind. How can a church of 50 families (maybe 150 people) afford to have people go and focus on another place? Every family and individual who gets involved at Illumine is essential, valuable, and important to everyone else. So is it wise to split up a family like that? On a more practical note, can Illumine afford to have that kind of flux occur in membership and still maintain the ministry efforts at the level everyone would like?

Those questions definitely won't get answered in a single blog post (and that's definitely not the point of this one,) but let's start here: at what point could Illumine be sure? There will always be ways to grow and expand Rock Hill's ministry. Things could always be more secure. But at what expense? More churches can make more disciples than fewer churches. At the end of the day, even though it isn't about numbers in general, there are two numbers that matter: the total number of people who are in God's family versus the total number of people who aren't.

Whatever decisions we make, whatever calculations and specifications lead to those decisions, let's remind ourselves that those two numbers matter most. 

Matthew 28:19 | Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Pastor Kent Reeder

Dirt is Everywhere

For the past 3 Sundays (and we'll be closing it out this coming Sunday) Illumine's been focusing on the idea that "Dirt is Dirty." The point of this series so far has been to talk a serious look at sin - what it is, why it is wrong, and just how dirty it makes us (even if it seems to have little consequence or societal impact.) 

One of the main reasons we've taken this careful look at sin is to help each of us improve at identifying and wanting to avoid broken behaviors (and all sin is broken.) We've wanted to stress how easy it is to trivialize sin, because we realize that, quite frankly, dirt is everywhere.

There isn't really any place you can turn (not even church) that isn't affected by sin. It's all over the place. If people are there - so is sin. So often we see where sin is particularly prevalent or obvious and we think, "I'll avoid that place," which is good, but then we move on from avoiding temptation to looking for paradise. We try to find the purest, most pious, most outwardly excellent setting (sometimes referred to as the most religious) and we convince ourselves that if we look hard enough, we'll find a place where there is no sin. 

So people move from church to church, friend group to friend group, denomination to denomination, philosophy to philosophy, all in pursuit of a perfectly clean place on earth. But no matter where we turn, there is dirt.

If everything you touch has dirt on it, maybe your hands are dirty. 

And that's the thing, isn't it? Everywhere we look, there's sin, but it isn't because this place or that place has an inherently sinful quality. It is because all people have an inherent problem with sin. The filthiness comes up out of us and ruins everything we touch. Even if you were adopted by a family of God's holy angels and spent time exclusively with them, you and your sin would ruin it. It wouldn't be perfect anymore. 

Dirt is everywhere. So maybe, instead of running from it, we need to clean it up. This coming Sunday, our service theme is Soap. That's the response to dirt. We don't throw away a piece of clothing after it is dirty. We don't buy new dishes each week. Instead, we wash things. The forgiveness and reconciliation that come from Jesus are the solution that can wash away dirt - even as pervasive as it is in our world. 

So maybe you don't always have to run from people who sin. Maybe you can offer them a free way to clean themselves, and show them just how good it is to be cleaned by Christ. 

1 Corinthians 6:11
But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 

- Pastor Kent Reeder

A Church in the Bible Belt

Last night, a waiter in a restaurant asked me what has been a pretty common question: "Why did you guys decide to start a church in the BIble belt?" It's reasonable; there's about a million churches here, and most people have some connection to one of one of them. More than a little bit of ministry difficulty here at Illumine has come because of the power that the "matriarchal church" (the church your mom goes to) has in southern culture. 

So why would we do this? Illumine's existed for 2.5 years now, but the question is still relevant, especially because (God-willing) in the very near future we'll be doubling-down on our commitment to doing ministry in Rock Hill by purchasing the Center. 

Here's a few reasons. 

There are things we offer that aren't offered by other churches. Certainly every church in Rock Hill or York County can say that, but for us it is true in a couple of ways. We are the only church that is a member of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (our national church body) in York County...for now. This connection means that we have two top-of-the-line ministerial education high schools to offer kids. We have one of the best pastoral training programs, which means we can come close to guaranteeing that Illumine will always have a pastor who teaches what the Bible says. 

But it's more than just "affiliation"  or "denomination" that lets us offer something unique. Illumine is (along with having a super-unique name) is the only church in Rock Hill that emphasizes a discipleship cycle of Worship, Education, and Community Service the way we do, in that we prioritize all three of those methods of being a disciple equally. We show this to be true in a few ways. We don't act like Worship is the most important thing - in fact, for 3 non-consecutive months of the year we replace worship with education. We don't act like Education is more important than Community Service - in fact, for 6 months of each year we bring Community Service to the forefront on Sunday mornings. 

We seek to serve the de-churched and the un-churched. Yes, pretty much everyone who grew up around here can claim a church in one way or another. Some people can claim multiple (I went to VBS there, got married there, my mom went there...) That's a cool thing, and it binds our community together in a unique way. There are many, though, who currently don't attend church. Drive in Rock Hill on a Sunday morning and you'll see - the roads are pretty clear. So Illumine people are always talking about how we "make decisions based not on those who have been here the longest, but on those who aren't here yet." It's always going to be part of our DNA to think about what we do in that way. 

There are a lot of churches in this county, but there aren't "enough." One of the most encouraging things about starting Illumine is that whenever I (Kent) meet other pastors who serve various congregations in the area they are excited for Illumine, because they realize that the 75,000 residents of Rock Hill aren't all going to be able to come to or be served by just their church. Rock Hill has real, lost, hurting people - and some of them are going to be reached (or already have been!) through Illumine. 

New movers need a place to meet people. Rock Hill continues to grow very quickly, especially in this northeast corner of town (where the Center is located.) Illumine helps people connect to their community in very powerful ways - through fellowship at a church that really cares about individuals, through our regular featuring of local organizations so that you can know what's up in your community, and through our third-party and community based events. We were able to host a local power-lifting competition in April that brought in hundreds of people from all over the Charlotte Metro Area and allowed them to connect over something about which they were passionate. Our Mornings with Mommy program usually has 25-30 moms with their children, the majority of whom have moved to Rock Hill in the last 3 years. 

Why start a church in the Bible belt? In Charlotte? In York County, SC? In Rock Hill? Mostly, it's because Jesus loved the people in this place so much that he was willing to die for their sake, and he's called all believers to share that with the people around them. 

- Pastor Kent Reeder