God Has Work for Us to Do

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This is the title of an anthem that became a favorite this time last year as we prayed through the Lenten theme, "Roll Down Justice." Both anthem and theme challenged us to ponder, reflect and rededicate ourselves to the holy change that has to happen within us before we can expect a change in the world around us. 

This year, the challenge for holy change during Lent is the same and on three fronts: our Healthy Church Initiative prescription process, the Our Home capital campaign process, and our own souls. We are simultaneously working on our first two prescriptions - hospitality and vision - and our campaign teams are recruiting, meeting and training. These will bear fruit to the extent that we all do the work within our own souls. "Lord, what do you want to do through me?" is an appropriate prayer for all three of these holy efforts.

During this Lenten season, be in prayer, be in worship, and be open to the Spirit and holy change within your life because ... God has work for us to do.


Thanks be to God,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

It is Lent

"News of him spread even more and huge crowds gathered to listen and to be healed from their illnesses.  But Jesus would withdraw to deserted places for prayer"
(Luke 5:15-16, Common English Bible).

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Interesting listening to Joe Jaworski, leadership consultant to Dutch Royal Shell Co., say that before he begins a session of a corporate conference, he has everyone observe two minutes of silence, preferably with a walk in some available green space. He says it consistently changes the tone and quality of the work done together.  Lent gives us that same structured opportunity.

40 days crossed by six Sundays, we have opportunity starting tonight at 7 p.m., to find our own "deserted places" for quiet, prayer and centering. God meets us there before we confront the tyranny of the urgent in our lives. There is so much competing for our attention and energy; so much that distracts and distresses us - even in just the life of our church. We will be a better stronger people, a better stronger church, a better stronger individual as we find our quiet place and let God have our full attention first.  

From ashes we came; to ashes we shall return,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

Now the Work Begins

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On Sunday, Jan. 28, we voted overwhelmingly (172-4) for the five prescriptions of resolve as a church. Two of those - Vision Statement and Hospitality - are on the short list of 60-90 days to accomplish at least a plan of action. A number of you have raised your hands saying you want to be part of the groups working on these two prescriptions. Let Kevin Clanahan (kevin.clanahan@gmail.com), Lisa Test (ltest@fumcplano.org) or me know of your interest so we can include you. Our goal is to have some working recommendations ready before Easter (April 1) so that we can welcome still better the many guests who will be with us that on that holy day. 

Thank you all for your participation and prayers; I ask you for one more. Hailey Peters, a 20-month-old girl in our church, is extremely ill at Children's Hospital in Dallas. Please hold her, sister Jordan and parents Monica and Greg in your prayers. God will sustain us (2 Corinthians 4:7-9).

Holding YOU, my church family in prayer,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

Our Church Conference Vote Sunday: A New Year’s Resolution

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That was how Kevin Clanahan said it at the Town Hall Meetings held this week. He heard that able analogy from member Alan England who pointed out that with a new year’s resolution, we resolve, we make up our mind to do a new thing, like lose weight or get in shape. Only after we determine the resolve do we then select the strategies and tactics to fulfill that resolve. Or as Dr. Jim Ozier said during the Healthy Church Initiative workshop, many churches want to grow but that is not the same as deciding to grow.

Our vote Sunday after church on the five prescriptions is all about resolve versus strategies and tactics; it is all about deciding to grow. Once we make that decision, the strategies and tactics are within ready reach to achieve our goals for our growth in the kingdom.

P.S.  Some have been confused about our HCI process and the upcoming Capital Campaign to reduce debt, waterproof our home and upgrade our sound. These are two different things that are happening at the same time. I apologize for not being clearer on that point. I look forward to worshiping the Christ who calls us this Sunday. 

Breathe peace,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

The Prescriptions Please

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Like good doctors after listening carefully to their patients, Rev. Jim Ozier and Rev. Gene Wisdom gave our church five prescriptions after Sunday's one worship service, and most worshipers stayed to receive them - a good sign. Like good patients who care about their health, there was a lot of nodding of heads that acknowledged yes, we need those prescriptions to become even healthier.  The four-page report is free to all and posted on our website HERE.

Building on the momentum consistently expressed in the interviews and Saturday workshop, the five prescriptions are:

  1. (Next 2-3 months) Collaboratively drive a short, focused mission statement that captures our identity and purpose and becomes the baseline for all that we do.
  2. (Next 2-3 months) Collaboratively build greater intentionality and training into our hospitality.
  3. (In 4-9 months) Collaboratively create a Connections Team to develop and execute a strategic plan for reaching and engaging younger generations.
  4. (10-18 months) Collaboratively build a Faith Development Pathway for persons of all stages.
  5. (10-18 months) Develop a strategy for intentional leadership development, placement and accountability.

Town Hall meetings to hear questions and clarify with answers begin this Sunday at 9:45 a.m. in the Chapel with two more scheduled on Monday at 6 p.m. in the Gathering Area and at 5:30 p.m. during Wednesday Night Dinner. 

A Church Conference (all members have vote) is scheduled for Sunday, January 28 at 12:15 p.m. All who are present have vote. We will vote these five prescriptions together either up or down. Based on the turn-out for the prescriptions last Sunday, I look forward to an above average gathering to vote on the Jan. 28 to get even healthier as a congregation for the sake of our high calling in Christ Jesus.  

Thank you all so very much for your prayers and participation in God's work here.

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

Sea Change

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Last week it was, “all hands on deck.” This week it’s “sea change.”  The phrase is a quotation from Shakespeare. It comes from Ariel’s wonderfully evocative song in The Tempest regarding the sea’s transformation of the body of Ferdinand’s father:

Full fathom five thy father lies:
Of his bones are coral made:
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

Our Healthy Church Initiative process will, with the movement of the Spirit, cause a sea change in how we see ourselves and what we do for our mission to reach new people for Christ in our world. I pray you will be part of that marvelous transformation. 

Breathe peace; anticipate joy,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

All Hands on Deck on Saturday, Jan. 13

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It's an old naval term that called for all crew members to scramble to the deck of the ship, usually in an emergency situation.  

Ours is not an emergency situation but it is a vital one for the direction of the USS FirstPlano. A Task Force from our Conference Office will be on board to share with us findings from the 200+ surveys we completed last fall plus information about the mission field we are charged by Christ to reach. Additionally, we will hear the observations from 30 visits made by "mystery guests" over the last two months.  It will be a lot of information to absorb and discuss during a five-hour church conference on Saturday, Jan. 13, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Some of the feedback will affirm us; some of it will surprise and challenge us. All of it will help change our focus and heading.

I have sent an e-mail to 117 elected leaders from 2017 and 2018; they are expected to be present. We want 300 present for input, discussion and ownership of the outcomes. If you have not already done so, please sign up at church or online at www.fumcplano.org/hci. Child care is provided and lunch is involved so we need a headcount. It is a five-hour commitment and Christ is calling us, "All hands on deck." 

Out of this joint work, on Sunday, Jan. 14 we will have ONE single worship service at 10:30 a.m. (Sunday School at 9:30) with the Rev. Jim Ozier as our special guest. He will present us with "prescriptions" for course corrections going forward into our foreseeable future. All of this will be consistent with the reading many of us did last year with books like, Simple Church.

See you on board this Epiphany Sunday,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

This is Our Home, Part 2

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In Part 1 last week I wrote about the Feasibility study for the, "This is Our Home" capital campaign next spring. I also invited all to the Church Conference two nights ago where we added two persons to the ranks of leadership and we unanimously voted in a $2.2M Budget for 2018—a 4% increase.

In Part 2 this week I want to acknowledge that improving sound, repairing door and window leaks, and even paying down our long-term debt is the stuff of home ownership. We do this as a matter of course for our own homes but it is not what finally makes it our home. It is the people in it. 

For people of Christian faith, we celebrate this Sunday the first and most important person in our homes: Jesus Christ. It is around him that all of life and love turn, all goodness and truths are learned, practiced and celebrated. Christ comes not just as the babe in the manger but the warming, illuminating fire in the fireplaces of our hearts. Sunday, we will lift candles in "Our Home" and sing, "Son of God, love's pure light" to reaffirm these truths—the truths that truly make our houses and house of worship ... our home

Welcome home this Sunday,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

This is Our Home, Part 1

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After Sunday's inspiring cantata, Don Smith—our consultant from Horizons Stewardship—presented to about 50 people the Feasibility Report for our spring, "This is Our Home" capital campaign. From the 84 surveys (a good sample, Don reported), several highlights were lifted up:

  1. There is strong belief in the appropriateness of the goals for the campaign.
  2. There is high confidence in the leadership of the church for this campaign.
  3. The projected range of giving is not proportionately as high as 1 and 2. 

Copies of the stapled, abridged report are free and in the office for pick-up by anyone. The bound, fuller detailed report is also in the office, available for check-out.

Monday, Dec. 18 at 7:30 p.m., we will hold a Church Conference to review and vote on our 2018 Budget and amendments to the slate of leadership voted in at the November District Charge Conference. In a Church Conference, every member has a vote. I think this aids transparency and communication. Copies of the report are available at church this Sunday and in the church office.  

These housekeeping items are important for our church family because this is our home. Next week in Part 2  I will talk a bit about what, beyond repairs and debt retirement, most importantly makes this our home.  

See you with the church family Sunday,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

Feasibility

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Feasible.  Feas-able.  According to Webster, it comes from the old French root, "faire"–"to do."  Feasibility then means, "able to to do."  

It has a rather safe connotation: something within our comfort level; something we know; something within our known ability; something predictable.

During the fall a number of us filled out a "feasibility survey" for our stewardship consultant, Horizons Inc. Don Smith, its representative, interviewed some 20-25 of us. The company looked at patterns of giving, statements of belief and confidence in the church, her leadership and her direction and then completed its analysis. This Sunday, December 10 - immediately following the 11 a.m. service/Cantata - Don will report out to us the results of the company's analysis which will then be published for all to see in the church. I hope you will stay for 20-30 minutes following the service. We will extend child care for this reveal.  

I do not know the full results of the analysis. What I do know is that Webster did not factor in God for what he defined as,"feasible."

See you at the surprising place this Sunday,

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Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor