Iglesia Luterana Cross

sonriePlano Mission has a real name now; it is Iglesia Luterana Cross, which translates into Cross Lutheran Church! What is exciting to me is that Cross did not ask them to take this name. Rather, out of gratitude and joy of our partner in ministry, the Spanish speaking worshipers decided they wanted to share a name as well as a faith and a mission: to make Disciples of Christ that Walk with God, Grow in Faith Together and Love Our Neighbors. It is truly an exciting time!

Cross, Plano attended VBS in Yorkville again this year and together shared a cross-cultural experience to Thailand but also in working together. Bilingual Spanish youth participated in the program while the adults served in various ways. It is wonderful to work together and to encourage one another.

Vicar Walter Ramirez and Seminarian David Blas are currently in Florida with their families attending back-to-back events. The first is an intensive schooling that will be Walter’s final class before he is ready for ordination, hopefully this fall. The second event is a national event for Spanish speaking ministers and their families. This event will encourage them in their effort, help them share effective strategies, pray for each other and allow the families to support one another in their unique roles.

Ministry continues to grow, slowly but surely, in Plano. The worship service is frequently at capacity, and there is no space for the children! Walter has been holding baptism classes with four baptisms scheduled for next month! Currently we are trying to rent the office adjacent to the worship space in Plano. This space would allow children’s ministry to occur during the worship service and also provide space for Bible study, English (ESL) classes, and community events (like the recently completed diabetes awareness seminar). Please continue to pray for this much needed ministry to the Spanish speaking families in our community.

God has a heart for all people of all nations. As I look at our mission partners, both local and international, I can’t help but believe we are working hard toward the vision of heaven God desires: “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9.

His servant and yours,
Pastor Erik Gauss

Vacation Bible School

elephantThis week our sanctuary worship space was transformed into a cross-cultural Vacation Bible School (VBS) experience. 167 children and 75 volunteers were transported to Thailand for a cultural immersion. Participants learned the language, ate the food, heard the stories of the children of Thailand and heard what Jesus teaches about people who are “different” than us.

One participant commented how wonderful it was for her children to be gaining a larger perspective of the world. Her children were praying for the people and children of Thailand and asking to experience more of the culture at home and online. I was very encouraged by this testimony.

Our decision-making and opinions on different issues are limited to our experience and knowledge. A “close-minded” person is unwilling to learn the unique challenges and pressures of other cultures and environments. An open-minded individual is willing to see and learn about the world as God sees it. These young people experiencing VBS just might grow to have a heart and mind for missions and reaching people of other cultures for years to come.

Cultural challenges aren’t just in other countries. In many ways other countries are coming to us through immigration and schooling. Cultural barriers are also there for people that were raised in different types of home environments. A person who didn’t ever read the bible, pray or make decisions according to God’s truth is going to be a cultural barrier for someone raised in a devout Christian home.

I’m so excited for the opportunity VBS offered to all who participated to open our minds to situations that are different. Thank you to the leadership, volunteers and participants that made this a great success and ultimately provided bibles to children in Thailand through a faith offering at the end of the week. I pray for all of us that this might be an inspiration for us to consider the different challenges the world brings to the people that are different than us. Those who live across the world or across the street.

The truth of God applies to all people in every circumstance. If God’s people are willing to listen and love we can be an instrument of God’s grace to all. May the Holy Spirit open our minds to reach out to others and may the grace of God help us share his hope for every situation.

His service and yours,
Pastor Erik Gauss

Being the Church

church-community21A few years ago I had the opportunity to hear a man named Reggie McNeal speak about the missional church. McNeal started his presentation sharing an interesting statistic from two recent studies. He asked, “Do you know what is the fasted growing religious affiliation in the United States?”

The answer is “None”.

“None” – people who do not claim any specific religious affiliation. This could be agnostic, atheist, or “nothing in particular.” In 2007 this represented 16% of the American population. Today, that number has grown to about 19%-28% depending on what part of the country you ask the question.

As a church, sometimes our response is to try and do church better. “If only we had this program, – then we’d be growing!” “If only we worked harder to get people into the pews.” But keep this in mind, our communities today have some of the best churches they’ve ever had. Our churches are doing some amazing work in the communities! Some of you have a long history here – you know what a wonderful church we have. Many of you have given a lot of time and energy to make Cross the greatest church it can be.

What if we switched our focus from trying to do church better to being the church. It’s changing our focus from what we do and focusing on what God has already done – called us the Body of Christ! We don’t have to strive to achieve this calling, God has already made it so in Jesus Christ!

Coming up in August we have a sermon series about Being The Church. Together we will explore Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. We will see that life today isn’t so different from life two thousand years ago. God is still working in and through the lives of Christians, bringing the same hope and forgiveness found only in Jesus Christ. Christians still have an impact on the world as they gather around God’s Word in community – being the Body of Christ together. As God’s Word works in and through the lives of believers, we go out and do the good works that God has already prepared for us to do – not that these works win us favor with God. Rather, those works are our joyful response to what God has already called us in His Word: loved, forgiven, new creations and servants of the Lord. Being the Body of Christ in our community makes an eternal difference in the lives of those around us.

I know I am the new guy, but already I see the heart of God’s people for mission at Cross. Let’s continue to be who God has already called us to be.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:19-25

In His Hands,
Pastor Matt Conrad

The Thing with Sin


Recently the Supreme Court finally released its ruling on same-sex marriages. The finger pointing and opinions have been fast and furious. There are well-reasoned perspectives as well as name calling and mudslinging from both sides of the argument. This has brought out the best in people and the worst in people. The ruling has evoked both fear and hope for the progress and future success of our nation. That is the problem; there is no “hope” in humanity. “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” Psalm 118:8-9.

This isn’t an “us vs. them” battle. There aren’t sides to this except the sides of sin and forgiveness. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but …against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12. The issue of same-sex relationships is just the current manifestation of the timeless struggle each of us has with the pleasure of flesh. Pornography, pre-marital, extra-marital, lustful thoughts, lustful actions, crude joking, issues within the marriage bed, prostitutes, concubines, celibacy, and now gender identity are all different manifestations of the same sin and need the same response: “Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ.” Ephesians 5:21.

I am saddened that the court in our land has legalized same-sex marriage but probably not for the reason a pastor “should” be upset. I am saddened for a much more selfish reason: that my daughters will grow up in a nation where our laws confuse right and wrong. But, I am also very content. I don’t want my daughters making any decisions because of what the laws of man say (except out of respect for authority), but rather out of reverence to Christ. Sin is ALWAYS an option, and it often seems like a good option; that is why it is called temptation. The only true way to overcome sin is asking God for the strength to do so.

The role of Christ followers throughout history is always the same. Our role is not to create laws that control society but, rather, to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ that society might submit to the will of its Savior out of faithfulness, not coercion. This happens when we speak the truth about sin in love. All sin, including mine. My sin is real and yet it has been covered in Christ. The daily struggle with sin reminds me to have love and patience with others as they wrestle through their sin. It also reminds me of the urgency we have as the Church of God on Earth to share the Good News at all times and in all ways. Christ died for this sin, too.

His servant and yours,

Pastor Erik Gauss