After hearing several amazing sermons, I asked Pastor Ed Nelson if he would sit with me to discuss our church. I felt it was important to get an idea of how he views GrandView Community Church from his perspective as our transitional pastor and what words of wisdom he could provide as our church welcomes Bob Cheney, our new pastor next month.
As I entered the church I noticed how empty the pastor’s office was compared to the last time I had been in there, and I began to feel overwhelmed with a sense of sadness. I quickly told myself that this too would change in the coming weeks. Granted, the ugly green chairs were still there, and if I was Pastor Greg, I would have left them too! Actually, I probably would have thrown them out, and as that thought entered my mind, I remembered sitting in one of those ugly green chairs almost three years ago crying my heart out with Greg and his wife Gloria. The chairs are still ugly, but the memories are beautiful.
Cheri sat in one of those green chairs, and Ed came around the desk to shake my hand and sit in one of the two chairs in front of his desk. When I asked about this, he explained he gets the work done behind the desk, but he prefers to be on the other side for conversation, so he is seen as equal to the other person. Ed wore a patriotic shirt and jeans, and he appeared very relaxed as he sat across from me, sipping coffee from one of our church coffee mugs. He and Cheri planned to drive up Pikes Peak after our discussion. Speaking of Cheri, he said, “She’s been there, but not me, and we’ve been waiting for nice weather.” Summer had a late start this year, so thankfully they now have the opportunity to go!
“So, tell me, why do you think you’re here?” This probably wasn’t the first question Ed thought I would ask, but still, it is a necessary question.
His response? “God put a calling on my life.” Ed was a long-time pastor who recently retired, but his contentment with retirement only lasted one year. He said, “I prayed, ‘God, I’m rested and I’m ready to do something’ and the next day Steve Rennick (our state minister) called and explained Greg was retiring and asked me to think about becoming the transitional pastor.” He took a sip of his coffee and added, “It was a direct answer to prayer. And I’m thankful for it because I found this is a congregation that’s fun to be around. You all love humor and to laugh and everyone is so well organized.” After another sip of coffee, he continued, “Greg prepared you all well.” He also pointed out GrandView’s good financial condition, explaining that when Bob Cheney comes next month, he won’t have the same struggles other new pastors inherit when they are chosen for a new church.
“I believe the congregation is well-positioned for a new pastor.”
Over the last five Sundays, Ed preached a sermon series titled “I See A Church” focusing on the 12th chapter in the book of Romans:
I See A Church that is a sacrificial community
I See A Church that is a loving community
I See A Church that is a harmonious community
I See A Church that is a united community
I See A Church that is a peaceful community
“Do you have a favorite?” I ask, thinking he preferred one sermon over another.
I was wrong. “My favorite is all of them!” he exclaimed, and I laughed. Of course. Then he added, “But there is one that rings true to me.” And without even looking at his Bible app, he quoted the first two verses of Romans 12. “It is so easy to let the world set our standards, but biblical standards take priority.”
“The world wants us to conform and we cannot let that happen,” Ed said, and he further explained that we need to constantly renew our minds. I shared with Ed that I love Joyce Meyer and her ministry’s mission, which is focused around the renewing of the mind. The mind is a battlefield, and I explained to Ed how Joyce pointed out that in Ephesians 4:22-24 we are told to put off our old life and stop acting like we weren’t saved, to constantly renew our minds and lastly, to start behaving the way God wants us to.
After discussing this, Ed told me, “The world is exacerbated.”
I paused for a second and decided to show him that I’m still a teenager in Christ by saying, “Wait, that’s a big word. What does that mean?” He laughed at me and explained it means that the church is compounded in its difficulty. There are two worlds, biblical and secular, and each is fighting against one another. He then added with laughter, “It’s nice when you have one word that covers all those words!” And I couldn’t help but laugh along with him since he didn’t make me feel like a child for not understanding a word that hasn’t been used around me.
“Overall, there is a war between the biblical and secular world. Who is going to win?” He asked me, and quite frankly, it is a loaded question.
When it came time to offer words of wisdom for the GrandView family, his thoughts circled around being a team player during times of change. He encouraged us not to nit-pick or micro-manage. He explained, “We are afraid of leadership. We’re skeptical in general, so we don’t give the leadership a shot. And there is scripture to back this leadership as well,” Ed said as he pulled out his cell phone and opens his Bible app. “In 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 (NIV) it reads, ‘Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.’” I was instantly reminded of the moments of doubt I experienced when the church hired a new worship director in 2016. We’re only human and these fears are normal, but we can’t get stuck in that kind of attitude. If we do, it can (and will) cause long term consequences, both external and obvious to everyone, as well as internal, affecting our spirits. We must protect our spirits in this day and age.
We have a number of older members in our church, and Ed acknowledged their wisdom; therefore, he only had a word of warning to offer. “The new pastor will seem very young, but his job is to help win a new generation to Christ.” He stressed the importance of everyone acting mature and giving Bob the benefit of the doubt. But he also said this won’t be easy. He said the older members should be asking themselves this: “Am I willing to let change happen so my grandchildren can understand?” He further explained, “Every generation has to find a new way to share God’s message. Meaning, the vehicle must change.” He explained how far civilization has come from the days of traveling in a horse and buggy to being able to travel in airplanes that can take us anywhere within a day.
“Too often we don’t want the vehicle to change because it is comfortable for us and yet we will change the cargo to accommodate the world.”
Ed encouraged all members to confront issues and each other in love because there will be problems. “Did you know that when a new pastor comes in, 15% of the church leaves?” I looked at him in shock and shook my head, thinking the worst until he added, “And yet the church will grow 15% as well, and at that time it will begin to flourish.” I didn’t realize I was holding my breath until I let it out in relief. “Paul says to speak truth in love or we will become passive-aggressive which is unhealthy and causes sickness.” I couldn’t help but nod my head in agreement.
I brought up a memory of attending this church as a teenager, and the struggle I had with bringing friends who had issues to this church because those friends were told to leave. Ed assured me that Jesus wants the church to be messy because babies always make messes, but down the road, they will grow into mature believers. He added that when it comes to worship, we also need to have a mixture of the old and the new, but to be open-minded, remembering that worship isn’t about us. Instantly I thought about Chris Tomlin’s updated version of “Amazing Grace” and how his version really spoke to me better than the original I learned as a child.
“We must remember this: The church doesn’t exist for the benefit of membership, but for Jesus and His cause. He wants lost people to be found.”
While I was driving home I was listening to Way FM, and Wally from The Wally Show started talking about how David is highlighted in the Bible as one of the best examples of a man of God, but he also had his issues. Wally pointed out two things: David knew of the incredible sin he committed and brought that to God when convicted and yet through it all, he worshipped God. He wrote a large number of the Psalms out of his struggles.
With that said, I want to end this blog post with Psalm 91, my favorite of them all, in hopes that we can all find shelter under the Almighty, through whatever may come as our church begins a new era.
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (NIV)