Deutschland Travels, Spring 2010, Day #5

Jan picked me up as before & we made our way to his home in Gau Algesheim, a very rural town about 20 minutes or so out of Mainz. I’m a bit familiar with the place, as I spent some time there a couple of years back when I stayed there with my friends, Alex & Linda on the Laurenziberg, an expansive, rolling hill overlooking the town.

We immediately sat down to a quick lunch; barbecued chicken & rice. I couldn’t help but wonder if we were eating one of the neighborhood chickens… Our discussions over lunch & beyond centered on what is happening with Foursquare Germany. Jan told me of the “1/3” reality that exists, meaning that 1/3 of the churches are struggling, 1/3 are doing ok, 1/3 are thriving. He laid out some of the strategies he & his regional leaders are pursuing for the coming years, & went back & forth on some ideas about how the US church (our division/district specifically,) might be able to partner with them in their plans… to help & be a part by giving key resources (money, time, & people.)

Some things that stood out to me from our discussions:

    -There is a great desire & need in Germany for regional church planting centers, as that would also help with pastoral health & leadership development. Currently, there are no Foursquare churches in East Germany, & only 1 church of less than 20 people in the German capital, Berlin, a key & strategic city for Germany & for Europe.

    -The intention & focus of the leadership team is to plant a thriving, life-giving church in Berlin late Summer/Fall of 2011 by sending a pastoral team from one of the ‘thriving’ churches to Berlin to head it up. Jan is hopeful that outreach teams from other churches in Germany (& the US,) could come alongside for the ‘launch” of the church. One of the concerns they have is what will happen when the pastor of a ‘strong’ church leaves their current church & moves to Berlin – will there be a strong pastor & leader to replace the church planter so that the church left behind will continue to develop & thrive.

    -Our talks reminded me of the necessity to pray for workers – for people to declare the Good News, & also to be a part of the “making disciples.” The scripture that comes to mind is Matthew 9:38, when Jesus tells His disciples:

    The harvest is great, but the workers are few. Pray to the LORD Who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send out more workers for the harvest.

My heart was torn as I listened, & I’m determined to amp up praying for this.

In the late afternoon, the two of us took a walk through the vineyards, to & past the nearby Benedictine monastery, to a scenic overlook of the valley Gau Algesheim sits in. We spent some time there, under the waving flags of Germany & the European Union, talking & getting to know each other better. We discussed American & German politics; our wives & kids; the things we are most prone to struggle with, areas of weakness & temptation; what feeds our soul.

Back to the house for a quick bite (good bread & split pea soup, with a dash of vinegar to give it some extra bite,) & we made our way to Bingen, a town along the Rhein about 30 minutes away. We left a little early to be able to take a few minutes to walk through the tiny village.

Bingen is feeling the bite of the downturn of the economy – stores are empty, others are suffering as those that want to shop usually trek the extra few kilometers into Mainz or Frankfurt to buy what they want & need. It seems to me to be a town without identity – unremarkable. What I mean is that where many (most?) German cities have a distinctive downtown, with an open, spacious square & buildings restored to their 18th century look, Bingen is narrow, closed, & feels like being in an elevator; with the buildings reminiscent of 70s era Eastern bloc chic.

As usually happens, we found our way to an espresso bar & took turns pretending to be coffee aficionados. Pretending. ☺

Jumped into the car & found our way to the church. It’s an independent, non-affiliated fellowship that is looking to become adopted into Foursquare Germany. I asked Jan how this sort of thing happens here, as I know that Germans have a process for everything. I wasn’t disappointed.

The ‘adoption’ process is 3 years long; the 1st year is spent getting to know each other through hanging out together & attending Foursquare meetings & conferences. The 2nd year is more involved with specific, structured interactions, in-depth interviews, & examination on both sides. In the 3rd year, there are formal reviews, interviews, & a couple of month long evaluation by the regional leader, who at the end of the process, will make a recommendation, “yay” or “nay.” Then, the final decision on what happens is made by the Foursquare Germany board, consisting of the 4 regional leaders & the 1 national leader.

This church, the Brunnen Gemeinde (fellowship) is fairly established, & is unique in Germany in that they built & own their own church building. Nina, the pastor, is an olderish, motherly type woman who reminded me a lot of my mother-in-law, with her distinct & sweet singing voice, & quick, contagious laugh. The building itself was what theBean would say is “crisp & clean,” with an open layout, though in the sanctuary, the stage area took up almost 1/3 (!) of the entire sanctuary. There were about 10 of us total in attendance (the pastor, her husband, & some of the key leaders, Jan & I.) We gathered for worship, then made our way into a kitchen meeting room.

This time, I’d had a little more time to prep & more background info on the church for the talk I’d be giving. I was led to talk from Psalm 71 about passing on the great things God has done in, through, & around us. How it’s our responsibility to always be looking for those that Don’t Know yet – don’t know about the fingerprints God’s left on us personally & as a family. Don’t know what are we, who are we, & why are we. How this isn’t just the domain & responsibility of the individual & the family, but it’s also something that every church has to intentionally build into itself. It seems that the longer we’re in our church, & the more we ‘know” the history, the more likely we are to make the assumption & jump that others understand it in the same way that we do. We talked about different ways to bring these things up, talk about, rehearse & revisit them until they become a common thread woven into the fabric of our lives together.

I talked for about an hour, often referencing my own learning processes, shortcomings, struggles, & places where I had to grow, stretch, & be developed. Most poignant (to me) was the discussion on the pastoral role of ‘equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry;” growing in unity, & coming to maturity in the faith, as measured by us becoming like Christ. I reflected quite a bit on my & Hillside’s own journey through this process.

Then, there was another hour of questions – most in the vein of, “what & how” questions. A couple examples:

    -How do I find people to share my faith with? (Friends. Family. Co-workers. The people you see & interact with on a regular basis; those already in your life.)

    -What do you do if someone in the church doesn’t seem to want to grow or change in Christ? (Feed the hungry bird – meaning, spend as much time as you can with those that DO want to grow, that ARE there, that ARE looking to do whatever they can

    -Would you let someone who is knowingly in “bad sin” (their word) be on an after service prayer team? (No.) To which the response was a collective gasp. And Louie said, “Oops.” That wasn’t theoretical, was it?

After praying together, Jan & I made our way back to Gau Algesheim – the last couple of days have been a bit taxing, & both of us were pretty tired, but not ready for bed yet. So we sat in the darkness of his back patio, sipping a treasured 16 year old single malt, relaxing & talking about our favorite & most personally influential books, movies, & music. My kind of getting to know each other.

Finally, I made my way towards bed to try & catch a couple hours of sleep before starting my Friday. It was a great day, & I’m thankful for the growing relationship with Jan.

An epic trifecta: God, Guinness, & historical-ness…

I’m a ‘fan’ (fully devoted believer & follower) of God. A fan of Guinness. And a fan of history. So when I heard about a book that combined all 3 of those, I was intrigued, especially because it is often assumed that it is impossible for the first 2 (God & Guinness) to be associated at all, a development that seems to have originated with the Temperance Movement of the late 19th century, a subject I’ve written about in some detail HERE.

The book is called, The Search For God & Guinness – a Biography of a Beer That Changed The World,” by Stephen Mansfield. It begins with a series of anecdotes relating specifically to Arthur Guinness, the man that started the Guinness brewery in 1759, & also about the beer he created. It reveals a man (& a company,) committed to God & people. As I go through the book, I may blog some of the stuff that jumps out at me. So far, I’m really impressed at the values & priorities lived out by Arthur Guinness. He vividly illustrated by the way that he lived, worked, & cared for people that ‘the Church’ is not a building; it is a way of life – the Jesus way – loving God & people. He left behind a legacy & a lifetime of evidence that testified of that fact.

I’ve found it a fascinating read from the get-go. My favorite thing so far is from Mansfield’s exploration of the history of beer, & especially how it is tied to a familiar & significant part of the beginning of the United States of America. He cites a couple of primary sources, (meaning that the sources were written by actual Pilgrims who were eyewitnesses to the events recorded. If you’re interested, the sources are: Mourt’s Relation & Of Plymouth Plantation.)

The sources record the first interaction between the occupants of the Mayflower & the Native Americans, a couple of guys that we’ve learned about since Kindergarten, Samoset & Squanto. What I’d never heard about was the details of their first interchange.

In March of 1621 – the Pilgrims, worried about a lack of shelter from the brutal New England weather, as well as waning foodstuffs & a rapidly depleting beer supply, made their way ashore & began the process of establishing their colony. Here’s an excerpt from the book:

On March 16…a tall muscular native strode out from the trees & began to approach. The Pilgrims quickly took their muskets in hand. They were startled, for the man coming toward them was an unsettling sight. He was nearly naked – “Stark naked,” they later said – with only a strand of leather about his waist & fringe about as wide as a man’s hand covering his private parts. he carried a bow & 2 arrows & the Pilgrims noticed that his hair was long in the back but shaved at the front of his head. They had seen nothing like that in England.

As starling as this Indian was to the Pilgrims, it was what happened next that shocked them most of all. The man neared, paused, & then shouted “Welcome!” in clear, perfect English. And then, more astonishing still, he asked – again, flawlessly in the Pilgrims’ own tongue- if they had some beer.

Yes. Beer.

As much as I love historical-ness, I believe I would have paid even better attention if that information had been included in the educational process.