February 2009

I didn’t grow up practicing the church year. So Lent (and Advent, Pentecost, etc…) remains fresh in my life. After all, the idea of setting aside some time to prepare for a big event makes a lot of sense to me. I’m a husband, a dad, and a pastor (among other things!), each of which requires extra time to prep for special occassions. That’s a little like Lent for me. Setting aside extra time to prepare for the greatest of Christian celebrations: the resurrection of Jesus.

However, for me, setting aside extra time for Lent is much more meaningful when I am able to do it with others. So, I’m wondering if you would find studying Scripture together for Lent as meaningful as I would. Perhaps so. Each week, a group of us will gather together at my home in Spring Branch to discuss the following Sunday’s scripture texts. Likewise, I will post for on-line discussion questions that you can interact with here. Feel free to respond to my questions, or ask your own, about Sunday’s text. Or perhaps how your own Lenten journey is going.

Scripture for Sunday March 1, 2009 is Mark 1:9-15. Some of my own questions about this text include:

  • What had Jesus done at this point in his story that God was “pleased” with him (See vs 11)?
  • How did words & phrases like: good news, Christ, Son of God, and kingdom sound to the original audience? What did they mean and how did they function?
  • Why does Mark reference Isaiah 64 at the baptism of Jesus (see the heavens torn apart in Mark 1:10 and Is 64:1), and what does that mean? Is he saying that what was fortold in Isaiah is true in Jesus? If so, what does Isaiah say?
  • What about Jesus is lovely to you (See vs 11)?

We’ll meet for the first time at my house on March 3 and study the texts for Sunday March 8th.

A Gospel-Formed Community, Value 6 of 6:
Celebrating our Desire to Grow

In June of 2008 Houston Mennonite Church made a decision that will continue to shape our identity for years to come. After exploring our future together, we decided to remain at 1231 Wirt Road rather than to relocate.

Here is a statement  included in the Transformation Document that I invite you to interact with, along with the questions below. Our current location provides a central meeting place for our members, provides opportunities for ministry to all social classes and gives us land for growth.

The Two Primary Questions are:

  • How does/will/can/should our decision to stay where we are shape our mission & vision?

  • And how does/will/can/should our mission and vision shape what we do with the property?

Derivative Questions include:


  • What meaningful memories do you have of connection with God or others in our current building?
  • Does our facility reflect our values? If so, how? If not, what changes do we need to make?
  • How does and how can our worship space enhance our life together and shape us? How has our new seating arrangement shaped us?
  • How is and how can our Sunday School space meet our needs?
  • Does our childcare space convey welcome and care?
  • Do our facilities (outside, inside, parking, etc…) convey a spirit of welcome to our community?
  • Are we connecting with the community in which we are located?
  • What ideas for development would connect our 4 acre grounds to our sense of mission and identity based in our core values? In other words, how can we connect our assets to our values?
  • Do you think that architexture “speaks”? If so, what is ours saying?

Our scriptures for this Sunday are: Psalm 84 and 122, Joshua 4:1-4, Jeremiah 29:1-9.

I’ve heard it said before that “we shape our buildings, and from then on our buildings shape us.” If that’s true, dialogue about facilities is more than just functional, but also a theological issue as well. Please jump in on this discussin at whatever level you feel comfortable!

A Gospel-Formed Community, Value 5 of 6:
Celebrating our Desire to Grow

“We desire to grow.” This is the 5th value that we highlighted in June of 2008 as having the power to shape our identity in positive ways. Anyone who wants is invited to add your thoughts to our discussion. Dialogue is a powerful tool to make ideas reality, and to turn values in to practices. Here are some initial questions I’d invite you to marinate in this week.

  • Why do we want to grow? Is this value driven by evangelistic fervor, desires for financial sustainability, greater strength through greater diversity, respect?
  • What assets do we already have? Our small size, personel, skills, gifts, practices, power, facility, webpage, church sign, etc…? Name out our gifts.  
  • If you were advertizing HMC in the Houston Chronicle and had only 5 words to describe us, what 5 words would you choose?
  • What might block our growth?
  • What actions can we take to help us grow?
  • How might our other values enhance our efforts at growth? Remember I said last Sunday that each of these values comes to life when enmeshed with our other values.
  • What are you personally willing to do, and how are you personally being called to change, in order to nurture the growth of our congregation?

All are invited to participate. Your comments will spark others to think more deeply in this subject. I will also use them in my sermon for Feb 15. Sermon texts for Sunday Feb 15 are Isaiah 2:1-4, John 15:1-11.

A Gospel-Formed Community, Value 4 of 6:
Celebrating our Call to Service

“We are called to service.” It is normative for Anabaptists to see discipleship and Christianity through the lens of service. Our congregation is no different. Sunday, February 8 in our worship service we will focus on Celebrating our Call to Service. Join in with the discussion below to enhance Marty’s sermon, and to enhance our mission in Houston!

  • What shapes an ethic of service in people? What was it for you?
  • What blocks us from being people of service? (busyness, etc…)
  • With such a vast number of places to serve in Houston, and issues to tackle, how do we discern where to serve and what to do?
  • Does a congregation need its own mission/service, or is it better for members to plug in to organizations that touch them?
  • How has service shaped you? What did you learn by doing service?
  • What broken realities in Houston/US/world make you “holy impatient”? How can our community of faith help you address your impatience?
  • How do our other core values (Being Mennonite, worship, relationships, desire to grow, facilities) enhance our service?
  • Do you agree with the 73% of Mennonites who say that “doing both evangelism and social ministry” is what we mean by the work of the gospel? (See Road Signs for the Journey for stats). If so, how does that color what we mean by service? If not, why not?

Please note that MCC Gulf States director John Stoez will be joining us from 9:30-10:30AM during SS for a presentation on the ministry of Mennonite Central Committee.

Also note we will be having a service project Saturday Feb 7 at Casa Juan Diego. See announcements for further details.