Monday, August 24, 2015

Why Are You Here?

Why are you here?  

This is a pretty simple question and one we get asked often, but the answer gets more complicated the more I think about it. I think sometimes I have done a pretty bad job of answering it. At times, it was because I was bad at German and had trouble expressing the answer. Other times, it has to do with context and trying to answer the question in a country with a history like Austria's. When religion is primarily a tool of power, authority and guilt, it is easy to see how someone would not want to be associated with it. When one has never met someone with honest and sincere faith, it is easy to dismiss it.  Knowing these things, it's hard for me to answer the question in a way that doesn't turn someone off or give them the wrong impression.

Why are you here? For a long time my answer was something along the lines of:
  • I went to university to be a pastor and studied theology.
  • We are working with the newly recognized “evangelikale Gemeinden”(evangelical churches), because they are small and many cannot afford to pay a pastor. (Having "government recognition" means our churches have some validity in people's minds)
  • We want to connect with those that are searching and share with them about Jesus.
This isn’t the wrong answer. It is straight forward and hopefully understandable to someone with little contact with faith outside of very hierarchical churches. But I am wondering if there is a better answer. One that is directer and gets to the point.

Why are you here?
  • I am here because Jesus is different. He says religion is man trying to reach God, but in him God came to us.
  • I am here because the world is broken, it is not as it should be.
  • I am here because I believe Jesus transforms lives. He is doing it in my life (I am not finished yet) and he wants to do it in every life.
  • I am here because the stories are true. All of them. The ones that make our hearts sing and the tragedies that cause them to break, that God reveals himself to man and calls us into communion with him.
I think it is important to remind myself of this, just like we need constant reminders in life.
So the question is... why are you there?

- Nate

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Emotional Moments

Most people who know me know that I have always been a pretty even keel person. Before I had Ellie, I would pretty rarely cry, and Nate and I used to joke that he cried more than I did. However, having a baby apparently changes you! I cry much more often now, not just when I'm sad but for all sorts of reasons...watching a touching commercial, seeing someone else cry (i.e. the sympathy cry), tears of joy, every episode of 'So You Think You Can name it.

This morning's church service was, therefore, a teary one, because it was baptism Sunday. Many amazing and emotional stories were told by the 5 people choosing to be baptized. There were conversion stories where families were unaccepting, stories of dramatic encounters with God, stories of high highs and low lows, stories of answers to prayer and many more. There were tears on the stage, so of course there were tears in my eyes, as well!

One of the testimonies was translated from Spanish and done interview-style.

A full sanctuary!
It was also a special celebration, because these were the first baptisms in our new the swimming pool on the roof! It might be a bit of a non-traditional baptism venue, but it worked great.

We are so encouraged to see people here coming to faith and publicly it professing. Baptisms are also a wonderful reason to invite guests to church and our sanctuary was packed this morning! This just confirms how important it was to move into our new, bigger space so that special Sundays like this could happen. Praise God!

Our new baptismal!

All of the people being baptised, with one of our elders.