Grand Openings [v104]

OCTOBER 2007

‘GRAND OPENINGS’:
Webster’s defines a “grand opening” as a “formal or official beginning; officially ready for use; or celebratory gathering.”

As I mentioned in last month’s newsletter, I have been a part of a “core team” that has been planning a new church for the past 3 years—and just last week (23 SEP 07), we had our “Grand Opening.” This was the culmination of many people giving tirelessly, sacrificially, and selflessly—all this to give the greater Birmingham (MI) community a ‘comfortable’ place to be able to make intimate friendships with ‘ordinary’ people who are ‘dealing’ with the same pressures and worries that all of us on earth experience—but suggesting that we can deal with them in a different way. We all share a deep and ‘authentic’ love for Jesus and the people of this world—and honestly desire to follow Jesus’ teachings and into put them into ‘practical’ use.

[ NOTE: Here’s a direct link to a web page that has a SUMMARY VIDEO of the GRAND OPENING service at Kensington Birmingham last Sunday (23 SEP 07). Scroll down to the bottom of the page, just to the left of the title “GRAND OPENING!!!” and click on the picture Depending on the speed of your Internet connection, it will take from 1-2 minutes to start—it’s 60Mb. (If you’re interested, browse around the site to see what we’ve done in the past few years while the video is downloading:
http://www.spiritedesign.com/kwest/kwest_whats_new.html ) ].

The kind of people we have ‘focused’ our energies to be a help to are:

– Those looking for some ‘good news’ would hear it presented here
– Those who feel ‘trapped’ in life could come a find the “get out of jail card” that restores joy and deep satisfaction
– Those who are searching for a clearer ‘path’ in life would be able to discover it here
– Those who feel ‘overwhelmed’ with life could find release.
– Those who want an ‘accepting place’ where they can just be themselves—a place to have a laugh; ‘connect’ with a friend over a cup of coffee or ‘soda’; be able to sincerely encourage and be encouraged; where their kids can enjoy themselves and learn a little bit in the process; a place to ‘belong’.

During our special day, we saw 1,382 people come through the doors—which was exciting and very encouraging for all of us praying that this would be a ‘grand’ opening. Though this number was significant as one considers the first day attendance of a new church, it ‘pales’ in comparison to, as I will term it, the SECOND GRANDEST OPENING of all!

Estimated to be just over 3,400 years ago, the nation of Israel was leaving slavery in Egypt (the Jewish holiday of Passover, which was just recently celebrated), and were being pursued by a great army that was ‘committed’ to bringing them back.

The Old Testament of the Bible tells of how God “OPENED the Red Sea” so that the nation of Israel, estimated to be about 2-2.5 MILLION people, could ‘evade’ the approaching army by “crossing the sea on dry ground.” Then, when the Israelites were all safely on the other side and the Egyptians ‘hotly’ pursued them, the water flowed back and covered the entire army—and not one survived.

There were other ‘grand openings’ like the Jordan River stopping its flow so the Israelites could cross into the “Promised Land” (again on dry ground). But, in my opinion, THE GRANDEST OPENING of them all happened in the days while Jesus was on this earth and a very religious “priest” (Pharisee) named Nicodemus engaged Jesus in a conversation, and he wanted to know what must he do to make it to Heaven.

Nicodemus undoubtedly had tried his ‘way’ (a very strict and long list of items—613 to be exact) and wasn’t confident that he was going to make it. Jesus then tells Nicodemus how He will himself provide THE GRANDEST OPENING ever—a DIRECT ‘CONNECTION’ with God the Father—where one can ‘converse’ directly with God without having to have a priest be an ‘intermediary’ by offering a “sacrifice.” Here’s how Jesus phrased it:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For god did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him” [John 3:16-17].

Talk about a GRAND ‘OPENING’!…I can’t think of any other words that I have ever read that are more ‘grand’ than those! And that’s the ‘message’ of the church—God opens His ‘arms’ wide open and says to everyone, “I love you, and want to offer you total forgiveness—I have not come to condemn, but to ‘rescue’ you”…you just need to go through the ‘DOOR’ I’ve provided—my Son, Jesus (“I am the door; whoever enters through Me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture” John 10:9).

There’s also kind of a second “John 3:16”—1 John 3:16—and what makes it so ‘exciting’ to me is that it offers to us a ‘key’ that makes today a very important time for each and every one of us:

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers”…”Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with action and in truth” [1 John 3:16, 18]. And if we ‘skip’ ahead a few verses to 1 John 4:10-12, it ‘finishes’ the thought for me:

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since god so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

I’m reminded of a story that might help illustrate all of this. There was a little boy, who over the course of several days, kept coming up to his daddy and telling him about his problems. During those days, the dad would lend a hand where he could, but often would ask his son, “Why don’t you ask Jesus to help you?” Well, after hearing that response for many days, one day, exasperated, the boy blurted out to his dad, “I can’t daddy…I need Jesus with ‘skin’ on!”

Well, to my understanding, that’s the message of the ‘church’—and what Kensington is all about. God has proclaimed to the world that His love is offered freely to whoever would choose to receive it. But the world needs a Jesus with ‘skin on’—and that’s what the church is to be!

Kensington Church (and MANY other churches in our area—and around the world) exist to tell our surrounding communities of the great and awesome love of God, to BE JESUS to them, and to offer an ‘OPEN DOOR’ to Heaven.

We’ve opened our ‘doors’ to the greater Birmingham area, and we are opening are hearts too! Here’s a portion of a letter that the Campus Director, Gina Petherick, wrote the day after the Grand Opening (24 SEP 07):

“Wow. What happened Sunday could not have happened 10 or 20 years ago. God has been turning over the soil and fertilizing the ground for many years now, and finally the glory was his for our west-side communities. As I looked around at all the faces in our new auditorium, I could not help but see the joy and celebration over what God has done through all of us. And what is even more amazing is that we are all just very ordinary people. We are not holy-rollers or bible-thumpers or in-your-face evangelists. We are ordinary people living ordinary lives and dealing with the same pressures and worries that characterize life on earth. But here is where we are different—we share a deep and authentic love for God and His people. That was so evident in everyone from Steve and Clint who have forged their hearts with Christ to be his mouthpiece, to all the servants throughout the campus, there was a love for God that permeated every one’s being and poured out onto the people who came to see why Kensington was different. So, while we lead ordinary lives, God is doing extraordinary things through us. I know we are simply His instrument and He wants to use us in the way he sees fit.  When we ‘allow’ Him to do just that, therein lies the power. The power that He says is available to us all through His son Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit.  With that power, His work to transform a community one life at a time has begun.”

The celebration of love and joy was evident, but the numbers also help to tell the story. We had 1,382 people, kids and adults come through our doors on Sunday. While we had many friends from the main campus join us, there were some 400 new people who had only been to Kensington once or twice or never before. Please pray that these people God loves so dearly will feel the tug on their heart to return and hear what they have probably never heard or understood before. Know that there will be a fall-off in attendance in the next several weeks, and that some people may have been scared by what they felt on Sunday. They might have realized that God really does want their lives, and they may be nowhere near ready to do that now. But also know that a seed has been planted, and God will do the watering, using each of us as the watering can to pour out His love and His word on those that thirst for something more.

While in many ways yesterday felt like the culmination of three-year dream, in reality it was just the beginning of a new adventure in our communities. We have only seen a glimpse of the fruit God wants to produce from our plot of land. And of course, there is still much fruit He wants for us all—that we can fully understand the abundant life he desires for us.

So let’s keep praying for the soil to be turned, for the ground to be fertilized, for seeds to be planted and for God’s rain to pour down on each and every person. God is about to do extraordinary things before our eyes, and— guess what—He’s using you, the ordinary people, to accomplish his purposes. Isn’t that cool? Doesn’t that make you feel like a disciple?

It’s awesome to watch God at work, but even better to be used by Him for His greater purpose in life. Thanks for making yourself available to him on this journey.”

Hopefully that gives you a better idea of the ‘heart’ of this new “campus”—and we would very much like you to come and experience God’s love through His people (as best we can).

Our services are at 9:00 am and 10:30 am at Birmingham Groves High School (Birmingham Conference Center) at the corner of 13 Mile and Evergreen. Kids have a specially designed ‘service’ for them too!

Let me personally invite any of you that are interested, or feel free to pass this along to anyone that you think might be interested in ‘checking us out’ (or come with your friend).

Blessings….
Mark

[Excerpts from: Don Lain; Gina Petherick]

[P.S.: If you would like to investigate further how you can grow closer to God in the here and now, visit the following link:
http://www.4vis.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q12_d1_1of10.html ].

LIFE’S DEEP THOUGHTS (v104) for OCTOBER 2007

If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at: mbesh@comcast.net

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DEEP THOUGHT:
“Opening a shop is easy; what’s hard is keeping it open”
[Chinese Proverb]

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Hope you enjoyed some of these insights—share them with your friends and colleagues—so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from, and more to share with!

Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” [Revelation 3:20].

Mark

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Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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