Hello everyone. One of the great benefits of being a Christian is that when you share one of the gospel truths with someone, God will often present a situation where he shows you the reality of that truth in a very vivid way. I had one of those moments on Christmas Eve.

Last Sunday as one of my application points I said, "This Christmas in every gift that is given and opened think of Jesus the greatest gift of all." My wife and I spent Christmas Eve at her sister's house. After dinner her sister's little girl who is 2 and a half went upstairs to take a bath and put on her pajamas so she could come back downstairs and open a few presents. She came down those stairs so excited. Jumping up and down she exclaimed, "Now can I open one of my presents!?" Her dad said yes and as I was standing there holding my little daughter in my arms watching my little niece open up her first Christmas present I was overcome with emotion. My words from the day before came to mind, Jesus the greatest gift of all. Jesus, God himself, a little baby like my little baby...come into this world to die for my sin and save me...what a great gift or God. I had to fight back the tears.

After my niece opened her present I told her I had a question. I said, "Hey Brooklyn, why do we give presents?" She looked at me with a big smile, clapped her hands together, and said in a joyous squeal, "Je-s-us!!!" Her parents have taught her well.

- Pastor Duane
One week ago MTV named Against Me! the artist of the week and Spin Magazine named their latest album released in July, album of the year. Against Me! is a punk band doing very well right now and since musical artists are the quasi prophets of the day I thought I'd see if they had anything to say about joy since we've been talking about joy and Jesus lately.

I was surprised to find they actually have a song titled "joy." I was even more surprised when I read the lyrics. Here's a piece "...in passing I am asked 'Do you believe in a God?, I shrug off the answer, continue to get high in this terror of no explanation. I am looking for a faith. My panic is an only reason. There's a joy, a joy in all I can see. A joy, in every possibility."

Interesting words. An sober admission of fear, longing, and need for an answer and yet seeing none and resolving to find joy in simply the question or the possibility. What does this have to say about who we are as humans and does it have anything to say about the gospel of Jesus?

We experience fear when it comes to God for sure. But I think fear isn't so much just a fear of whether he exists or not but a fear of what that means if he does. Because if God exists then I am not God and I am responsible for my actions and I ought to worship him and what does it mean if I don't? That is scary for sure.

What about the longing? The feeling of searching or wanting or feeling lost or estranged are surely common among us all. The sense that things are right and that something is missing. We are looking for faith. We know there is something wrong with us that needs to get fixed. It just seems we prefer to keep looking sometimes because we know that if we embrace Christ then we will have to repent of some things and the way of our life will have to change.

The most striking thing about this song is the conclusion...joy in possibility. Can there really be joy in possibility or is this just an excuse like saying, "well since I can figure it out I guess I'll just keep on doing whatever I want and having fun." If so, then the issues of the heart just never get dealt with.

This is Christmas. When Jesus was born the angels of heaven announced it and said that his birth was the birth of the gospel of great joy for all peoples. This Christmas know that the answer for all our fears and longings is Jesus. His is the only true anchor for joy because he was born perfect and stayed perfect. Jesus never messed up his heart his whole life and gave his life on the cross for all who would embrace him and receive his life in exchange for their fear condemned broken and hurting heart. In Jesus we have a savior...one who saves us from ourselves and gives us his eternal joy.

-Pastor Duane
Last Sunday was the Bethlehem Candle of Humility in the second week of Advent. I started off my sermon talking about Kanye West. I bring up Kanye because this last week of advent was about the humility of Jesus so I thought it would be good to see how Kanye stacks up.

For those who only listen to classical music, Kanye is one of the most popular and successful rap artists today. If you turn on the radio, there's like 90% chance you'll be listening to one of his songs. "Th-th-that that don't kill me, can only make me stronger" off his latest album reverberates out of the speakers of every other car driving down the road right now.

In 2006 the cover of Rolling Stone magazine had a picture of Kanye as Jesus, wearing a crown of thorns. He said in an interview at the time if a Bible were written in the present day, he is famous and important enough to be included in it. This year, he was nominated for 5 of the MTV music awards and when he didn't win any he was upset after the show and said he'd never come to the ceremony again. Here's a hilarious SNL skit about the humility of Kanye: Click Here.

Somehow I imagine that Kanye West will not quite have the impact that Jesus did. Perhaps it was because of the unsurpassing humility of Jesus Christ.

Jesus was God. Jesus was there…in the beginning…when God said, "Let there be light and there was light." Jesus was there. When God made the animals and the plants…Jesus was there. And when God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed life into him making him a living being…Jesus was there. This is the deal, this is what makes the Christmas story so huge and significant, that Jesus was God, very God, the one wonderful, powerful, beautfiful, glorious, Creator of the universe…and he became a man. If Jesus were just another person who was born and who did some good things in his life, it would not be as big of deal, he would merely be on par with some other people who did some good things. But if God, God himself, Jesus, became a man…that is a big deal.

Jesus becomes man. How does God do that? I don't know. How to you create or cause things to exist before there is anything? I don't know. I suppose when your God and you make the rules and the laws of gravity, you have more resources at your fingertips. But it is clear. God becomes a man. God, the God who always has been and was never born, undergoes the experience of being born as a man.

Jesus becoming a man is humiliting. Not for us, for him. If you are the God of the universe…how humbling is it to become a man, born as a little baby. Think about it. That is crazy. Jesus shows us true humility. If anyone has any right not be humble it's God. If you're the most powerful being ever…and you know everything there is to know…there's nothing to be humble about. It's just fact. Your it God! But God is not just an awesome God because of his power and knowledge but because of his charater. His character is one of compassion and humility shown in Jesus, God himself, becoming a man.

Neitzsche says humility is weakness. Buddhism says humility is deatching yourself from suffering by realizing you are one with the world. God says humility is grace of God shown in the face of Jesus Christ, who did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Our greatest need this Christmas Advent season is the gospel. The gospel is: Jesus died so that the root of my sin problem can get dealt with…so I don't have to keep trying not to be prideful but so true humility is born in my heart. Then I will naturally be humble like Jesus and lower myself out of compassion for others even when I don't need to. Then I will naturally live a life of thanks and worship rather than petition, demand, and disappointment. That's what I need. That is what we all need. We need the gospel of Jesus Christ.

-Pastor Duane
If any of you have ever been to my office you will normally see a large pile of books next to my computer. This pile contains the books I am currently reading. I usually tend to have my finger in about five or six books at a time. I thought I'd give you a glimpse of what I've been reading lately.

"Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change" by Paul David Trip
   I'm just about done with this one. It is a great book which really works through how the gospel takes deeper and deeper root in our hearts and how we as individuals can really help each other grow. There is not an issue in one's life that this book doesn't deal with. It is the next book I am taking our leaders through in our leadership meetings and I would encourage everyone in the church to give this book a read.

"The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright" by John Piper
   I'm about half-way through this book right now. It is a scholarly work written to address a theological movement called "The New Perspective of Paul" and one of its primary spokesman. If you don't know Greek and are unfamiliar with scholar level theological terminology it may be a difficult book for you to read, though not impossible. For a broken down version of what the New Perspective is and what is at stake, you can read a response I personally wrote here: A Response to the New Perspective of Paul.

"The Hard Work of Rest" by The Editors of Life@Work
   This is a little book I've been reading a chapter or two of on my day off (Monday). I just have two chapters left and it's been an immensly helpful little jewel with a lot of good practical insights and tools. I usually read it in my backyard sitting on a lawnchair with a vodka & tonic or a jack & coke in hand.

"Heaven" by Randy Alcorn
   This is the most recent book I started reading and am loving it. It is serious theological work (over 500 pages long and footnoted well) but is also surprisingly readable (anyone could really read it). In theological scholarship there has been a major neglect of the in-depth study of heaven. This book seeks to overturn that tide and Randy Alcorn so far has been doing a great job and making me super excited about what Jesus has ahead for his followers. Randy Alcorn has probably written the best thing out there having to do with money as well. I'd encourage you to also check out that book, "Money, Possessions, and Eternity."

"A God Entranced View of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards" by 11 Different Authors
   I try to always be reading something either by Jonathan Edwards or about Jonathan Edwards. I was first turned on to Jonathan Edwards when I began to sense God's call on my life to be an Evangelist (a few years before I discovered Piper for those of you who thought I was just copying him!). Jonathan Edwards is one of the best known and most impactful Evangelists who has ever lived and of all the Evangelists I have studied, none has caught my affection more than Edwards. Which is one of the reasons why we named our church plant, "The Resolved Church" because Jonathan Edwards was famous for his 70 Resolutions.

"Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts" by Harold M. Best
   This is book I haven't got too far in reading yet. I heard Harold speak when I was last up in Seattle. He is an old white haired man which makes me really listen and respect him. He can say the word, "God" and you get chills. Harold's book sort of reads that way too and provides a sound perspective for an approach to art and the glory of God.

Recently completed books: Five Views on Apologetics, The Graymatter, The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham, Lead Like Jesus, Jesus Driven Ministry and Reforming Male Sexuality.
Yesterday I heard news that one of my pastor friends who planted a church right around the same time we did finally gave up and ended up sending all the people to another church. After hearing that I couldn't help but think about us, The Resolved Church, and where we are at and where we are heading as a church plant.

My friend Ed Stetzer who works for the North American Missions board recently put out a report studying 1,000 church plants from the year 2000 to 2005 to try and determine how many church plants survive and why. Statistics can always be tricky, it is commonly said that only 20% of church plants survive. Ed's findings are interesting, I encourage you to check out the report here.

The four main factors of the report were: 1. Having realistic expectations (Openness and honesty about the plant and having a plan). 2. Church leadership development. 3. Church planter peer group (Being connected to a denomination or network with support for the church planting pastor). 4. Stewardship plan (Church membership committment including financial accountability). I found this report very interesting in light of many of the things we are currently doing and have made plans to do that have mostly grown out of learning the hard way in the last two years of what not to do.

How do we add up? Having realistic expectations has personally been one of the most freeing things for me. I'm not kidding when I tell you that I truly thought we did not need a plan and that because of my superb preaching :) we would be nearly in the thousands within the first year. If you haven't noticed were not that big. :) Realizing that putting on a good performance in our service isn't the heart of our church plant, it is the people. People who are individually growing in Christ, being pastored, using their gifts and partnering together in community.

Leadership within The Resolved Church has radically changed within the last year. In January when my co-planter Justin Bragg left, it really challenged me to rise up and be the leader God called me to be. Since then I have been doing my best to establish myself as the Pastor of The Resolved Church. And by establish I mean show and demonstrate to you all that I will lead you and care for you because a title means nothing if you are not actively showing that. In May I began regularly meeting with those leading in different ways in the church. Last month, Aaron Braun, Michael Trujillo, and John Bale just finished reading and going through the book "Lead Like Jesus" with me. This month we are stepping up our meetings to every other week and are about to tackle a new book. In addition, I have been working with Josh Carstensen over the phone, who lives in Newport Beach and drives down with his wife Meagan every week to oversee our set-up and tear-down and to oversee our Sunday service publically.

As far as a church planter peer group. Not only do I function with four "virtual elders" who I talk to about things on a regular basis, but The Resolved Church is part of the Acts 29 network. Besides bi-yearly conferences, I have a monthly meeting with 6 other Acts 29 pastors for discussion and prayer about our church plant. These support systems are invaluable and I know I could not continue to be your Pastor without them.

Lastly, regarding a stewardship plan. One of the best things we have done in the last year is start membership. Tonight will be the completion of our second round of church membership class, an 8 week course where I teach about the theology and mission of The Resolved Church. The course ends with the signing of a Covenant Membership which includes a promise for regular financial giving.

In additon to these things, it occured to me a couple months ago that there are two main areas within our church that need some more focus to make us strong and able to receive those we reach out to within the city of San Diego and that is developing our community sense of planting together and developing the manhood of the men in the church.

So, on the evening of December 9th at 7pm we will have our first monthly "Church Plant Meeting." We will meet at our building, sit in a circle, have a few dicussion items about how we are doing as a plant, and pray together for the plant. These meetings will be designed to build our community in our attempt to plant a church together. They will be short (less than an hour) and will be a good chance to get to know people in the church better.

For the men, The Biblical Manhood Group with Pastor Duane will begin December 4th. The group will meet every other Tuesday night at Frank Johnson's house. There will be three parts, each week a look at one of the Biblical qualifications of manhood, we will discuss our personal lives in being men, and review a chapter from Douglas Wilson's book "Future Men."

On another note, a big thanks to everyone for giving Amy and I some time and space during the first two weeks after Adina was born. It was a great time to just focus on our family. But now we're back from hibernation and you guys are welcome to stop by and meet Adina, just give us a call.

Much love to you all,
Pastor Duane

Hello everyone,

We'd like to announce the birth of our new daughter, Adina Rain Smets!

So many of you have sent congratulations in the form of texts messages, voice mails, emails, cards, presents, food and everything else. Thank you so much! You are all amazing and we love you all a ton. Amy and I are super excited and enjoying being new parents and getting to know our daughter. It is a lot of work and lack of sleep but so worth it because Adina is freaking adorable.

During this special time while Amy is recovering from giving birth and together we are figuring out life with Adina, Duane is taking two weeks off work both from the group home he works and from pastoring the church. In six weeks Amy plans to return to work and do hair a couple days a week. We have been flooded with so many calls, the best way to get ahold of us right now is through email or text message.. Eventually we'll get back to all of you and start having people over to come meet Adina.

Above is a collage of pictures. If the file didn't come through or is too small for you to see, go to www.duanesmets.com/pics/adina.jpg and you will be able to see it there.

We love you all,
Duane, Amy and Adina
As of today, no baby yet. But new life is on the way for sure because I don't think my petite little wife can get much bigger! :) I'm sure I could easily be charged with that subjective trap where you think of everything through the lens of your own personal experience but I believe that new things are in store not only for me in being a dad but also for us as a church.

Three Sundays ago I preached a very difficult sermon for us all which basically took an honest look at where we are as a church plant. It was difficult because I don't like being the bad guy but as I've personally told several people, if I didn't preach it I wouldn't be doing my job and I would be a good pastor. The response, I have to say has been very encouraging. Several people are excited and have really stepped up in regards to serving Jesus' church and there are a number who have made some strong resolutions to live their lives differently. It is awesome to hear about God's work of grace in your hearts.

Here are the new things that will be happening for us as a church:

In the middle of this month a girl's mid-week community group will begin. The group will meet every other week for spiritual discussion and prayer at Gema Torrenes' house and then once a month the group will do something for fun and invite non-Christian friends. I encourage all of you girls to make a committment to be a part of this.

In December, I will begin leading a group of men to meet every other week to talk about what it means to be a man according to the Bible. We will meet at Frank Johnson's house, look at the Bible, talk about how you are doing as a man, and work through Douglas Wilson's book "Future Men." I want as many as you men as possible to be a part of this. You need this. The picture of a man in our culture is so askewed that we think if you talk rough, smoke cigarettes and wear a wife-beater then you are a man. I want to show you the picture of a man in the Bible and open up my life as a godly example to you. So men, be there! Or I might have to break out a holy can of whoop a$$ pastor beating on you. :)

Third, beginning in December we are going to start to have once a month church plant meetings on Sunday nights at our building. It will not be a service but a time for us to sit in a circle together to discuss how we are doing as a church plant. This will be a good community building time for us a church as we really attempt to create a glory driven, gospel centered, city within the city in San Diego. Look for more information coming about what Sunday of the month it will be and what time.

God is working and we are attempting to follow our leader, Jesus Christ, with all our might. For his fame in the sake of the gospel, this is an exciting season.

-Pastor Duane
Happy Reformation Day! Yes, today is Reformation Day. It is Reformation day because on October 31st, 1517 Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of Wittenberg and ignited a storm that brought the gospel of Jesus Christ to the forefront of the church, culture and the mission of the world. To read Luther's 95 theses or other things written by Martin Luther, go to this website: http://www.monergism.com/directory/link_category/Luther-Martin

On another note my daughter is due to be born in five days. They say only 5% of babies are born on their due date. Which in my mind means that she is going to be early because I want her to be. I mean, she's all done in there, so why not just come out now, you know? I seriously lack the fruit of patience, bad. :)

So I am pretty distracted this week as Amy and I anxiously await this new addition to our family. But at the same time I am exhilarated today as I pause to contemplate and cherish the sublime truth that I am justified, here and now. Thanks be to God who has given us Christ.

Much love to you all,
-Pastor Duane
Last Sunday I preached one of the most difficult sermons I have ever preached. It was not a sermon I was looking forward to or excited to preach, but it was as though if I did not preach it I would not have been doing my job as a pastor. The sermon was titled, "Partnership and Advance of the Gospel: The Resolved Church Mid-fall 2007" and was a sobering look at where we are as a church plant.

We looked at Philippians 1:1-18 and what it took for the church in Phillipi to get started and to continue and then we looked at how those things are present in our current context. The four things we focused on were: partnership, the gospel, challenges, and advances.

PARTNERSHIP - This word comes from the Greek word Koinonia and means fellowship, participation, joint-effort, togetherness. In regards to church planting it hightlights that we partner together in the endeavor of the gospel. This is what it means to be a church. You have a leader spearheading the charge and then others partnering together alongside with him in a common endeavor. We are a spiritual body with members attempting to reach a city together.

GOSPEL - The word gospel is news, news that is good. It was sometimes used to announce the birth of a baby or a victory in battle. In regards to Jesus, the gospel is the news of who Jesus is and what he has done for us. The gospel brings real heart change in us and then moves us with compassion to share the message and follow Jesus example of entering into culture and through it telling people about his person and work.

There are three approaches to culture within Christianity today (Props to Driscoll on his good baptistic alliteration which I stole. :) )
1. Reject/Sectarian. This view says culture is bad. The problem is culture is haywire and needs to be rejected and we need to show non-Christians how different we are and not have anything to do with them and their evil practices. This includes not only the Amish but a good majority of mainline protestant denominations and evangelical indepedents who are fundamentalists. They don't have any fun and strip the joy out having good mental capacities.
2. Receive/Syncretism. This view says culture is ever evolving and truth itself is evolving and we as the church just need to keep up with it and adapt and change the gospel so that it will still be relevant. This includes a majority of the "emerging church" movement and the neo-Catholic movment which wants to still be spiritual and okay with God but live however they want and not be accountable to anyone.
3. Redeem/Subvert. This view says culture is amoral and expresses itself in either God-glorifying or un-glorifying ways and can be redeemed according to the gospel. This view looks at the example of Jesus who entered into culture, wearing sandanls and a robe and speaking the language of the people in order to share the gospel with them. This includes Acts 29 (www.a29.org) the Gospel Coalition movement (www.thegospelcoalition.org) and us as The Resolved Church.

CHALLENGES - The Challenges we face include the following:

1. Lack of Regular Sunday Attendance - For nearly two years we have fluxuated between 25-50 people, if everyone who comes on a semi-regular basis came on one Sunday we would be nearly 150 people. So the sermon is not a reaction to one week but to a consistent prolonged trend. We have apparently plateaued and have shown ourselves to be unable to grow beyond this point. What are the potential reasons?

  a. Consumerism. Church is treated like a product that is me-centered, spectator oriented, based on what I like. Do I like the music? Is it too dark for me? Was the sermon entertaining? Sometimes those things are important but they will always vary. You need to commit to a church and for Sunday attendence not always be a decision each week.

  b. Sunday Insignficance. Church is seen as something that is not that important for me to be a regular part of. It is a simple lack of seriousness about the church and significance of reliable attendence. Church is extremely important for your own personal growth and others who benefit by your presence.

  c. Saturday night drunkenness or promiscuity. Persons are either hung-over, asleep, and/or feeling guilty for the previous night's sin and the result is abstaining from church in the morning. Those things are sin (Gal. 5:19-21) and you need to stop doing them because you are putting your eternal salvation in jeopardy.

  d. Sunday Dispensible. Church is seen as something that is dispensible if there is something better going on (like football games or a friend's party etc.). Sunday is seen as a "free day" to do whatever I want.

  e. Not taught. Some simply may have not been taught that God created and intends there to be a devoted to his people collectively worshipping him together (Ex. 20:8; Heb 10:25). Christians do this on Sunday. If you love Jesus, you will love his church and worship him on Sunday.

2. Spiritual Immaturity - We will always have a mixed mulititude I pray...unbelivers, new believers, mature believers. At the same time we always need to be pressing for maturity. What are areas where we are experiencing immaturity in our church?

  a. Lack of reading the Bible and good theological works. God designed the cognitive function of reading to be the chief means for us to grow up in him. God revealed himself in words in a book. If you are not regularly reading you are not growing.

  b. Men acting like boys. Drunkenness, pre-marital sex, husbands not lovingly leading their family. Boys need to grow up and be manly men who are respectable and protect and provide for their wife and children both physically and spiritually. Single guys need to do the same in preparation for a family and treat females like their sister until marriage.

  c. Women not following godly men. Married women need to respectfully encourage their husbands to repent of their lack of good leadership and not try and manipulate them to perform better. Single women need to care more about a guy's godliness than his looks and/or personality. If the guy doesn't love Jesus don't waste your time, you'll just get your heart broken.

  d. Heart not right. Some may think their a Christian and so they are okay and their attitude sucks. They are unkind to those around them, bitter, and think terrible thoughts about people. These are heart issues that need to get dealt with.

  e. Lack of Example. Perhaps the men have simply just not seen good examples before them. I am currently considering starting a men's time with Duane, to open up my life to you and teach you what it means to be a man according to the Bible.

3. Lack of Community - Community means knowing each other and sharing life together. How much time have you spent with people outside of Sunday morning service. It seems to me this is rarely happening and is a big red flag warning of our love for one another.

  a. Fake Growth. It seems at times we have expected flash in the pan magical growth, that people will magically walk through the doors and get connected to our community.

  b. Lack of Outside Sunday time. Very few people from our church spend time together outside of Sunday. Church is not intended to be a Sunday morning event but rather community life together, including during the week. Some churches expect you to be there nearly every night of the week, we expect Sunday and one other day of the week interaction with someone from church.

  c. Mid-week Community Groups. Our one and only mid-week community group died a few weeks ago because we no longer have a facilitator. You need not be a Bible scholar to lead one of these things, you only need to be able to open your hope and keep discussion on the discussion questions written by Pastor Duane.

  d. Meals together. Eating and drinking together is an important part of community. How often do you eat and drink with other people in the church. Go out to lunch with people after church, invite other with you, get to know each other.

  e. Welcomeness. I think we have improved on this level as far as people coming in the door on Sunday. We are friendly to them. But what about the next step of inviting them into our lives, to hang out with us and spend time with our community.

  f. Too busy. We live in a fast paced, demanding world. It is a high calling to work hard, put family first and treasure Jesus' church at the same time. But when it comes down to it, you make time for what you love and value. If you love Jesus and his church you will make time for his people.

4. Conversions. In the history of The Resolved Church, there have been 3 people who profess to coming to faith through our ministry. I'm sorry kids but I'm not happy with one a year and neither is Jesus. So why are not more people becoming Christians through our ministry.

  a. Bad mission. Mission has become for you a license to join the party or the workforce with no gospel purpose or intent in mind. You make friends with non-believers but never talk to them about the gospel. Never question them about what they think. Never listen to what their objections are and never confront the state of their hearts. People will not become Christians unless you make friends with them and then challenge their life and beliefs.

  b. No mission. You don't have any non-Christian friends that you regularly hang out with. You are amissional. You are in violation of Jesus' command and you are a disservice to Jesus church. You need to immediately go to the local bar and make some friends.

  c. No prayer for non-Christians. God has deemed that no one will come to put faith in Jesus without prayer and them hearing the word of God preached, either through you or a trained and qualified preacher. We need to be praying as a church that God will save sinners.

5. Me - I'm a problem as well as the main leader of this church. I am a sinner too not the one who has it all together. I need Jesus bad.

  a. I get angry, bitter, and frustrated. When things are not going right as we planned either in service or in general overrall I come undone at times which is immature and makes it difficult for people to follow and trust my leadership.

  b. I have got hung up on service so many times. I foolishly think that if the service runs perfect and smooth then I will be happy. The desire for perfection most frequently becomes my other Jesus I idol worship to for my joy and satisfaction.

  c. Impatience and ungracious. I tend to lack the fruit of patience and want things to happen now and if they are undoable then I break line and try and figure out how to do it my way as quick as possible. Ungraciousness often goes hand in hand but I frequently find myself wanting immediate change in people and forget taht God's grace in my life took me along ime.

  d. Too intense of a preacher. Perhaps my sermons are too long, too intense? I probably can't change that and I'm not sure how true that is. But I can't be someone that I'm not. I'm willing to learn and get better, even after preaching for 10 years, but I can't change who I am. I feel like Jeremiah did who said God's Word was like a "fire shut up in his bones (Jer. 20:9)."

  e. Micromanaging & learning to lead. In my 8 years and three degrees of college ministry preparation, I never took a single practical ministry class because I was more interested in the Bible and theology and figured if I got that the practical part would be easy. It's not so easy. :) So I took my first leadership class this summer and am trying to learn how to lead and develop leaders like Jesus.

  f. The pressure of money and my family. I am dependent on income from this church to be your pastor. My family is growing since my daughter is due to be born in two weeks and with it my expenses are increasing and if we do not grow numerically we will not grow financially and I will be Scripturally disqualified as your pastor for not being able to provide for my family. Sometimes that pressure is so intense that I do not always respond to people and to situations as I should.

ADVANCES - This word comes from the Greek word, prokopen, and means to advance, progress or to set aside a block in the way of the road. Some of the realities of where we are at as a church may sound dark and discouraging but they need not be. Once you know what is going on then it is easier to try and figure out what to do. And not everything has been all bad. We have taken some great strides forward.

1. Music worship - This last February was the first time Michael Trujullo had ever led anyone in worship of song musically. And in these few short months he has developed a whole band! And it is not just that they sound good and are super creative but their heart and dedication is right on point. They practice once a week during the week for you guys. I talk with Michael and pray with him each week and he and Kenny and Gema have such desire for you to grow in your love for jesus and singing praise to his name. When we sing, we sing in response to who God is and what he has done. If you don't sing that is like saying you don't get it or don't love who God is and what he has done for you. A few weeks ago Michael called everyone out and said we were not singing and needed to. That is good. Your leaders are trying to set an example of what worship is and calling you to it and that is awesome! We thank you and love you music team.

2. Families - For so long had no families. I prayed and prayed and prayed and thought we might just be single college age kids forever. Now we have a few committed families and not just that but we have Sunday school happening for the kids. I see this as a huge step forward. Some of you are wanting to get married or just recently did. That is good! Some of you are tired of dating and want to take marriage seriously in your dating. That is good! These are good steps forward. A healthy church has people from all stages of life. Ron and Kathy, who have been with us now for several months are a treasure to our church. They are the ones who put together the luncheons. They have been walking with Jesus for a long time and helped plant a church 30 years ago and wanted to do it again! God is sending the right people here to partner with us!

3. Membership class. - Currently there are 7 people taking our church membership class. There are people who are wanting to step up and love this church and are all about it. People wanting to learn. People who are teachable. On paper, there are only 6 members of this church, who have been through the class and signed the membership covenant. Here in a few weeks hopefully we'll have another 7 and we'll be 13! That's good! We're making progress.

4. Leadership development - A few months back I started leadership development with three different guys in the church who I meet with once a month and grill them about their lives and about their roles and we are going through a book together. In addition, recently Josh Carstensen has stepped up and as you may have noticed the last few weeks is running our service and also overseeing our set-up and tear-down.

5. Gospel conversions. - There are people who are genuinly coming to faith and embracing the gospel. Last week at membership class we just went around the room and each person shared where they are at with Jesus. It was amazing to hear the stories of God's recent work of grace in several people's hearts. Each week when I stand at the back and make myself available for prayer, people come and ask me to pray for them. God is working in people's hearts. I have several conversations, email exchanges, dinners, coffees, beers, surfing with people and there is growth and humility happening in several individuals where the gospel is taking deep root in hearts and lives.


Let's conclude. Today's been open, honest. There are good things and bad things going on. Today as we approach the table I think we should approach it in three ways: examination, petition, and praise.

Jesus came into this world and died for his church. He took our names to the cross to die for his own. And we are sinners. We fall so far short of the glory of God and yet God in his perfect love sends his own and he dies in our place, give us all his goodness, his fully righteous person. He lives a perfect live where we could not. he dies our death for us. and then gives us his life. That is grace, that is the gospel.

Jesus died for all our faults and failures as a church. He died to cover our sins and satisfy our guilty punishment and and he rose again to give us new life and to change things and to carry us along into glorious inheritance. The gospel is real. Come to the table and thank and praise jesus for all that he is. He is the head pastor of this church. Let us worship him.
My brother-in-law's new band, "We Barbarians" played at the Casbah last night. I'm kind of a rock-n-roll kid and enjoy going to shows. But I'm also a preacher and I don't know too many preachers who enjoy going to dirty bars full of smoke, drunkeness, scandalous women, and music so loud that you feel the wind of the bass on your face and it leaves your ears ringing until the next morning. That is good times. I hadn't been to a show in a while since my wife is 9 months pregnant with our daughter and people give pregnant ladies wierd looks when you're hanging out in a bar. The whole experience reminded of the importance of understanding culture and being able to work within it for the sake of the gospel.

Some ministers wouldn't be caught dead in a bar. If Jesus were walking around San Diego, I'm not sure if you would find him anywhere but bars. Now, I know going to shows and bars is mainly a mid-twenties thing unless you are forty still acting like you are in your mid-twenties...so for you guys, yes I'm sure Jesus would hang out at the bingo centers too. But the point is there is a certain style, and language, and culture we must learn, appreciate, and enter into in order for the gospel to make sense and be heard. I had few conversations with people who were not Christians and I realized that when I talk to people who are not Christians and who are rock-n-roll kids in a bar, I completely change the way I talk and the subjects I talk about.

This is the incarnational model of Christ, who entered the time and history, and went to the places people did in order to reach out. In that he gained a common experience of life that becomes a building block to speak about the gospel. With beers in hand, me and Johnny have something in common, our enjoyment of Jesus' first miracle, alcohol. So on a certain level Johnny accepts me and immediately and we have something to build relationship on, that will hopefully bear fruit to talk more about life and the life of Christ at work in me either on that night or on another day.

The danger is reaching out to the point where you sell out, where you go to bars or bingo solely for the pure fun of it with no gospel purpose or hope in mind and you end up drunk, rich, or poor and Jesus is left in the dust. The Christian should always be looking for an opportunity for a "door for the word" of the gospel to be opened as Paul says in Colossians 4:3. So let me challenge you, who are you trying to lead to Jesus? When was the last time you brought up the gospel to a friend? When was the last time you invited someone you know to church and talked about it with them afterward?

- Pastor Duane