Pastor’s Corner

What's Next

Pastor’s Corner – What’s Next?

As you read this, I am heading off on “vacation”.  This year looks very different than we expected.  Our family has saved for several years to be able to go to Washington, DC and New York City this summer.  The friend who was going to let us stay at their house contracted COVID-19 and well, you know the rest of the reasons.  So, instead we are headed to Nebraska to stay with a family member and at least have some time away.

Everything has been happening so fast and is changing so dramatically I have been more focused on tomorrow than “two months from now”.   I have recently been trying to change this by asking the question “What is next?”  What does the near future look like and how can we be more proactive with life and ministry instead of being so reactive like these last several months?

This leads me to another question I often ask, but haven’t been asking lately, “What is God trying to do here?”  I say trying, not because God isn’t capable, but rather, because I am not always listening well.  In the midst of the chaos of Corona, racial unrest and trying to become an expert on safety protocols for churches and schools, it has been easy to get lost in the weeds.  It is difficult to hear God’s voice when all the other voices are so loud and seem so important.

So, how do we refocus?  What should we consider as we do? Are there some specific steps and strategies we can take?  I recently met with some other leaders in nearby communities and came up with a few practical things to consider.

  • Plan for the next “wave” – we all hope this won’t come, but what if we are ready for it just in case it does? Stock up on toilet paper now J.  Stay in the habit of washing and sanitizing.
  • Create a Quaranteam – The stay at home orders were difficult before, if they happen again, it could be mind-numbing. Find a small group of people (neighbors, Community Group, family, other) and plan ahead now for what the expectations are to work together as a team in the next wave.  This maintains safety, but increases our support and influence.
  • Follow up with the Spiritually Curious – During the outbreak many of you shared stories of family members, friends and co-workers who were joining us online for worship. How are they doing now?  This doesn’t mean asking them how they liked the service.  This means staying in touch and asking how they are doing.  They may say “fine” for a while, but if God is stoking spiritual curiosity, He will not let it burn out easily.
  • Grow as a disciple-maker – As a church community, we have become highly dependent on large events and gatherings. These are good and Godly, but we have become increasingly inept at personal relationships and large gatherings are not likely to return for quite some time.  Now is the perfect opportunity to work on your skills as a disciple- maker.  Whether in your home or other circle of influence.
  • Grow as a follower of Jesus – One of my favorite memes during this pandemic has been the one that calls out our excuse making. It simply said “I used to say I was too busy to clean; now I just have to admit, I don’t like doing it.”  Similarly, our hectic lives have been our convenient excuse to not engage in the lifestyle of a follower of Jesus; read scripture, worship, pray, mentor, serve, work then rest, and listen to God.  Now is the perfect time to practice these skills!
  • Make sure as life resumes you keep space for the important things you rediscovered – Whatever it is that you had lost focus on, don’t return to the old habits and lose focus again. God has given us a gift, if we allow it to be.

I hope these ideas help you start thinking about what is next.  This of course is not a complete list, but it should definitely get you thinking about what God might want to accomplish through you in these interesting times.  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good…”  Romans 8:28

In Christ,

Erik Gauss


Pastor’s Corner

Happy Fathers Day

Pastor’s Corner – Blessed Father’s Day!

One of my memories of my father was he could get anywhere in the world, from anywhere in the world.  He had an amazing sense of direction; he would frequently take the back roads and would get you to a place of familiarity after a sometimes dizzying trip through unknown lands.  We seldom went the same place, the same way, as the time before.

When I was younger I didn’t like getting “lost.” I would tell my dad, “This isn’t the way to (fill in the blank)!” (I’ll use “Grandma’s House” from here on out instead of blank.)  He would just get a smirk on his face, say something like “It isn’t?  Are you sure?” and keep on driving.  This of course kept my attention as I would watch and wonder where we would finally make a turn and things would start to look familiar.

The memories that come to mind the most often involve us starting out in the right direction and then I would look out the window realizing I had no idea where we were.  Even though I had gone to “grandma’s house” 20 times, nothing looked familiar this time.  This would keep my attention as I wanted to know what dad was up to.  You see, occasionally when dad would take a “new way” to a familiar place, it meant he was taking a short cut that involved a stop at an ice cream parlor or some other fun detour.

As time went on I went from getting frustrated when dad didn’t go the right way, to hopeful that maybe we were going someplace fun on the way.  I sort of feel that way right now.

In 2020, we have veered off course; in fact, I would say 2020 started very well for Cross and my family.  All the trends were going in the right direction on the way to “Grandma’s House” when all of a sudden we took a detour.  This has been frustrating, scary, sad and overwhelming at times.   At other times, there has been joy, rest, family and focus that weren’t possible or didn’t seem necessary before.

Now, while all of the uncertainties, unknowns and anxieties abound, I find myself wondering “What is Dad up to?”  I find myself asking the question, “What is God working in all of this?”  I am beginning to become excited again that the people of God are getting fed up with the struggles of the world and want to do something to bring about healing and restore the joy of life again in this world.

The problem is that the road to healing and hope requires going through an unknown land.  Our Heavenly Father is still at the wheel and He will still get us to the destination He has in store.  But, until then, opportunity abounds.  The choice is ours as God’s children; to question our Heavenly Father and be filled with fear and frustration or to lean into our Heavenly Father, trust He is in control and keep looking to see what He is trying to do FOR us and THROUGH us.

Earthly Fathers have one primary role–that is to be the embodiment of Christ for their family.  We don’t do it perfectly, far from it.  Some children have never had it and still struggle because of it.  But, I am ever grateful for my earthly father who, even when he probably didn’t think he was trying to teach me anything about my Heavenly Father, taught me more than he’ll ever know.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word”

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

1 Corinthians 12

Pastor’s Corner – Alone Together

This phrase has become quite commonplace these days.  If you have seen commercials, listened to the radio or seen social media, you’ve seen or heard the slogan #alonetogether.  I appreciate the effort by everyone, from car manufacturers to celebrity endorsements, to encourage us as a society through these challenging times.  “Alone Together” attempts to comfort us by reminding us that we are all experiencing similar challenges at similar times.  You are not alone in your pain, you may be physically isolated, but you are united to something greater than yourself.

While it is true that all of society is experiencing the pandemic and the requirements of social distancing, it is not necessarily a time of intense bonding.  Some people’s lives have looked very similar to pre-corona days; other people’s lives have turned completely upside down.  Our experiences may not be the same, but we are all together.

The Bible uses many illustrations and descriptions that highlight the uniqueness of each individual person and at the same time honors the unity that we all have as God’s beloved children.  No description is more poignant than the Body of Christ imagery through Paul’s writings.  In 1 Corinthians 12, we are told quite clearly “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

One of the most beautiful images of this illustration is the description of the more “modest” parts of the body.  These are the parts that get extra attention and extra protection and, if they become injured, can cause the most pain and incapacitation to our entire body.  This illustration keeps running through my head as I consider all the groans of unrest that are coming from people all around us.

When people around us hurt, the temptation is to diagnose the cause of the pain and then point out the problem.  We point to the rock they stubbed their toe on and say “watch where you are going next time!” We believe our good and well-intentioned advice is the blessing they want, even if it isn’t what they are looking for.   When the hurt is a stubbed toe, this quick fix might suffice; when the issue is more significant, the solution must be more significant as well.

A small shift goes a long way in being the blessing hurting people both want and need.  That shift is to affirm the hurt they are feeling, even if you think it is of their own doing.  Telling someone to watch where they are going might make YOU feel better; it does little to comfort the person in pain.  It may help them avoid future pain, but it makes them feel foolish for the pain they are currently feeling.  If we affirm the pain they are feeling now, we actually provide comfort while also showing them we care.  When we eventually encourage them to “watch where they are going” they are more likely able to receive it with the love it is intended.

When Christ saw people crying out, acting out and hurting, the Bible frequently said it moved Him to feel “compassion.”  Compassion is not just empathy or heartbreak; compassion literally means it felt as if His guts fell out of His body and landed on the ground.  Jesus was moved to a visceral reaction when He saw people in anguish, He wasn’t moved to tell them what they were doing was wrong.  Jesus saved this kind of judgment for the self-righteous.

May the peace of God give you strength to endure.  May the love of Christ compel you to allow your heart to break and have compassion for your neighbor in all circumstances.

In Christ,

Erik Gauss

Pastor’s Corner

Encouraging Word

Pastor’s Corner – Encouraging Word

Near the end of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus approached the city of Jerusalem for the last time. The Disciples didn’t know it, in fact they threw a coronation party for their new King! But Jesus, being fully aware of what the days in front of Him held, tried to prepare the Disciples for what was about to happen. If I was Jesus, (did I just write that?), I would have tried to soften the blow at what was about to come. The real Jesus, being perfect, did not shy away from the truth, but outlined exactly what was to come.

Here Is Jesus description of the life that was to be for the followers of Jesus: “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other…Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold…For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.” Matthew 24:9-21. Does that sound familiar? This is only a small highlight. Jesus goes into more detail about the destruction that would come upon the Disciples and all His followers.

How in the world do the Disciples overcome this and have the message of Jesus become what we know it to be today? First and foremost, because it is God’s message and He made sure it happened! But second, the Church has always shone the brightest in the darkest times.

In the midst of all the doomsday promises, Jesus told His Disciples He also promises them this “but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:13,14

The Gospel promise of Jesus frequently gets drowned out (even for believers) amongst all the worldly promises that strong economies, individual wealth and protection under the law entice us with. Like everything else in this world, the promises of man will eventually fail and when they do, the days seem darker than the nights. But the Gospel still shines bright! Faith, Hope and Love are easier when things are going well. But, when things are not going well, they are not necessarily easy. Amongst all the uncertainty, destruction, hatred, sickness, loneliness and whatever else is happening, remember the Gospel of Jesus is our certainty.

See, the Gospel literally means Good News, and Good News is exactly what the world needs, what we need and what Jesus has given to us, for just a time as this. Isaiah 40:8 reminds us that while this world WILL fade away, the Word of God will NEVER fade away. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus declares “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” Our hope cannot be in this world or it will fade away with it. Thanks be to God he has given us a “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”. 1 Peter 1:3

May the love and promises of God fill you with peace from trusting that even in these uncertain days, God is accomplishing His work. And, may the Light of the Gospel of Jesus shine bright in your life and through your life unto all whom you encounter.

In Christ,

Erik Gauss