Canoeing the Mountains

Pastor Matt grounded by a safety vest at the Plano Balloon Festival this past Sunday. 

I am taking our staff through a study of Tod Bolsinger's book, Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory. It is a fascinating read using the Lewis and Clark expedition as a metaphor of the need for changing the way leadership in the church thinks - both clergy and laity. Lewis and Clark were charged by President Thomas Jefferson to find a waterway to the Pacific Ocean for the sake of commerce. Everyone assumed there was one and so Lewis and Clark kept doing what they had always known to do - canoe. But that paradigm no longer worked when they suddenly faced the Rocky Mountains. They were forced to rely on the local inhabitants - the Shoshone Native Americans - to guide them in new ways of thinking and navigating their next steps toward their destination. In the same way, the Church now needs to rely on the local inhabitants of the mission field to navigate our next steps toward reaching more people with Jesus.

Our Healthy Church Initiative is our chosen process to help us figure out the direction and focus of our next steps. We are compiling information about ourselves and our mission field, and your participation is crucial. Many have read Simple Church to get an idea of some of the issues. So far 102 people have filled out the HCI survey that will be compiled and discussed at the all-church retreat January 12-14.  If you have not yet taken this online survey, please do so HERE.  With your help we will better understand how to canoe the mountains around us.  

See you at the navigation place Sunday,

Matt Gaston Lead Pastor

Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

Jesus Wept

Rachel Escamilla, our Perkins Intern, reminded us of this during our devotional in staff meeting the morning after the carnage in Las Vegas. It is John 11:35. Lazarus has died before Jesus arrives, and sisters Mary and Martha are simply beside themselves. It is not when Jesus is told of Lazarus’ death that Jesus cries. It is when Jesus sees Mary and Martha crying that he too weeps. This has been instructive and inspiring in Christian tradition ever since: Jesus moves in love and empathy as he cries with all who cry out and mourn.  

We have all been crying out and mourning. As we did with the adults at the nightclub in Orlando, Fla. in 2016, and as we did with the children and adults of Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Conn. in 2012, we have been crying out and mourning for those murdered and injured in Las Vegas. We have been crying  out to God: “How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (Psalm 13:2b).  “How long, LORD, must I call out for help, but you do not listen?  Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?” (Habakkuk 1:2). This is raw and this is real, just as it was for Martha and Mary. This is where we all begin in our grief. 

This Sunday, we will begin a spiritual conversation about putting God first in our lives. But we must also cry out and mourn together. To that end, there will be some different elements to worship including special music, prayers, candles, and an opportunity for all to write prayers on large paper panels in the Gathering Area for our sisters and brothers in Las Vegas. On Monday, these panels will be divided up, rolled up and mailed to the three United Methodist Churches in Las Vegas. We want them to know first and foremost that as they grieve they are not alone, and to remind them that for all of them in Las Vegas and for all of us here, “Jesus wept.” 

Breathe peace (John 16:33),

Matt Gaston Lead Pastor

Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

Up, Up and Away!

Pastor Matt grounded by a safety vest at the Plano Balloon Festival this past Sunday. 

Yes, it’s a Superman quote but applies well to all that was the Balloon Festival here and the upcoming weeks of ascending promise.

Having paid to go Saturday night and then working the parking lines Sunday afternoon, I gained a full appreciation of this major event. Members, staff, Boy Scouts and others all worked with precision, great organization (Thank you especially Randy Jennings, United Methodist Men and Yardbirds) and good cheer as we collectively raised some $40,000 for mission and ministry. 

Moreover, that can-do spirit is being felt in our leadership meetings as we plan for our first stewardship emphasis in October (LEARN MORE) and our Healthy Church Initiative Retreat January 12-14 (LEARN MORE). The attitude continues to be, “God is good; let’s go!”  I think Bishop Gary Mueller will capture that same excitement in his sermon, “Vitalizers” this Sunday, October 1 at all three services. 

I look forward to being at table with you Sunday while being reminded that by the power of the Holy Spirit, our future is indeed, “up, up and away!”

Matt Gaston Lead Pastor

Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

What is Generosity

BY BOB BAUCUM, FINANCE COMMITTEE CHAIR

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Giving from the heart is the source of generosity. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, we have seen an outpouring of support and witnessed countless acts of selfless service from people across this country and around the world. The strength and character of the human spirit is awesome. 

Generosity is the thing you do without thinking first–you help someone who could use a hand or assistance. Generosity is a reflection and recognition of the many blessings we have received. We all have a lot to be thankful for in our lives.

My father-in-law possessed a tremendous capacity to show generosity.  Although years of working on the family farm around heavy-machinery would result in near deafness and rob our family of countless conversations, his constant love and care for his family was never questioned.

Later this same love would be extended to me, when to prepare for the CPA exam, my father-in-law sold a projector to pay for a CPA prep-course. This act of generosity changed my life and in turn changed what I could do for my family. Last month, I retired after thirty-five years as a CPA.

I have the same challenge when it comes to God. What is an appropriate gift when your life has been changed for the better? I have received many blessings in my life, which I know are from God. I encourage you to ask God what is an appropriate gift for your blessings. 

14 Down; 50 to Go on Our Home

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Ever since I mowed & edged lawns as a kid, I have enjoyed yardwork, tree-planting and pruning as therapeutic and life-giving. Later I came to appreciate its impact on property value and first impressions for others.

 I love the look of our church as you approach from any direction. We have a beautiful campus which our Yardbirds, Trustees and staff work hard to maintain and enhance. But at the end of the day, it’s our home, which is why this Saturday we will have an All-Church Work Day beginning at 9 a.m. in the Gym on the south side of our campus. We will go for 3-4 hours, working on various manageable tasks in and around our home. One of those tasks is the trimming of our many trees that people see as they drive by.  

I have thinned out and trimmed up 14 trees so far. We have 50 to go. With a snipper, lopper, bow saw and perhaps a ladder, one can trim 1-3 threes in a couple of hours. You see the math here. I will be here Saturday to trim up some of our trees, especially along Spring Creek Parkway before the Balloon Festival next weekend. Trimmed up together, our trees will make a new first impression on the thousands coming to our home to park. Thank you in advance for helping our home to look even better to that next person looking for a new church home.

See you Saturday AND Sunday at our home,

Matt Gaston Lead Pastor

Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

Exodus: Then and Now

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Several people came by my door last Sunday, shook my hand, looked me in the eyes, and said, "I Will," repeating new Pastor Emeritus Phil Mercer's call to action in his Labor Day sermon.  He had outlined the last major call to action when FUMC Plano made the exodus from its previous location to the "Land of Promise" where we now sit. Bishop Gary Mueller will also have an encouraging word of exodus when he takes our pulpit on Sunday, Oct. 1. Exodus - movement forward - is the story of God's work with us from Genesis to Revelation. 

Until then, for the next three weeks, I will be preaching a series entitled, "Exodus: Then and Now." As with the Hurricane Harvey evacuees and the Katrina evacuees before them, we find ourselves at points in sudden exodus to what can become a new start in life for ourselves, our family, our church. Such a time has come to our church as we continue through the Healthy Church Initiative (HCI) process. We are discovering what the "promised land" is that God is leading us toward. Reading Simple Church, individuals and classes are learning that it means taking a few very important things with you while leaving other things behind. Our text this week is Exodus 12:1-14. It is a grand adventure God has for us. I hope you will say, "I will" this fall.

See you Sunday in the happening place,

Matt Gaston Lead Pastor

Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

Matt's Musing: Rev. Phil Mercer - Pastor Emeritus

From its root word, "merit," the term "emeritus" bestows both title and honor to retired professors, bishops and pastors who have distinguished themselves in their service over their career. In this 170th Anniversary of FUMC Plano and 15th Anniversary at our current location at Spring Creek and Parker, I am proud to announce the designation of the Rev. Phil Mercer as Pastor Emeritus of FUMC Plano, filling the title and role held previously by the Rev. Ralph Burke. This designation was a unanimous decision of our Staff Parish Relations Committee over the summer. It was Phil's vision back in the 90's that saw the opportunity and provided the drive that moved our church from its downtown location to its present, fourth campus in 170 years.

Since his retirement, Phil and Mary both have been fixtures of presence, welcome and active ministry for Christ here at FUMC Plano. They are regular worshipers and Phil is a steady pastoral presence for persons in the hospital from our church. I personally have greatly appreciated Phil's steady affirmation and encouragement of my ministry in the North Texas Conference over the years. In this anniversary year, I have asked Phil to preach this Labor Day Sunday that we might honor him for his labors. I hope you will make every effort to be present to hear an energetic word from one who loves this church dearly. Thanks be to God.

See you in the honoring place,

Matt Gaston Lead Pastor

Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

We Are Family

Thousands of UVA students, faculty and Charlottesville residence led a candle light march across grounds Wednesday night, Aug. 16, in Charlottesville, Va. Photo/Andrew Shurtleff/The Daily Progress

Thousands of UVA students, faculty and Charlottesville residence led a candle light march across grounds Wednesday night, Aug. 16, in Charlottesville, Va. Photo/Andrew Shurtleff/The Daily Progress

Physically we were away in the mountains of Colorado finding rest and rejuvenation.

Emotionally our hearts were as close as our tears over the events and the fallout that continue around Charlottesville. Per the Hebrew scriptures, we should all be mourning with sackcloth and ashes (e.g. Isaiah 15:3); because in God's eyes, it is all a family affair. Ever since Cain murdered Abel (Genesis 4), brother has been killing brother in the global family. In these two weeks back from vacation, I am preaching on aspects of being  family together at various levels and ways. Last Sunday we let Genesis 45:1-15 guide us in a different way conflict and sin between brothers can be handled within a family. You can hear that message HERE

This Sunday, I am asking God to speak to us through the voice of Paul in Romans 12:1-8. There he speaks of the value of diversity in the body of Christ—the Church which is our adopted family. Diversity is seen as a source of strength and unity, not weakness and schism; it is something to be aspired and not abhorred. I feel so blessed for you to be my adopted family of faith and look forward to worshiping the Father of us all this Sunday.

Breathe peace,

Matt Gaston Lead Pastor

Matt Gaston
Lead Pastor

Guest Writer Lisa Test

#SeeAllThePeople

We cannot disciple people that we are not in relationship with. Discipleship begins with relationships. – the Rev. Junius B. Dotson

Over the last two weeks, the hallways have been full of new faces, dozens of them, in fact!

This summer we intentionally engaged with the people in our surrounding neighborhood, those right outside our doors that Christ calls us to reach. Our mission of reaching deeper into our community brings us into relationships with people from all walks of life. Our common work partnering with the UMC and community mission organizations gives us opportunity to love children and youth in our neighborhoods in new and creative ways – unlike our church has ever done before.  

This summer we opened the doors of our building and grounds for young people to experience this love of Christ. What a joy to witness this ministry in our hallways and on our grassy fields!

The radical hospitality of FUMC Plano embraced about 25 children the first week of August for GO Camp, a unique ministry of the North Texas Conference of the UMC. This provided a meaningful day camp that reaches under-served communities and provides new opportunities to develop young leaders. 

The next week we hosted mission partner CitySquare’s Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) Program. PAL was a class provided to 30 or more teens who are about to age out of the State of Texas foster care program.   They learned adult life skills to prepare them for this next phase of independence.

I am inspired by the work of our church as we embrace all people experiencing God’s grace through our staff, volunteers, community partners, and by our prayers and presence. By sharing a warm blanket with youth as the classrooms were cold, by welcoming into our offices as a place to sit and have lunch together. THIS is what Jesus calls us to do and be: to boldly show Christ’s love to those around us. We are the church, helping people grow in their faith making new disciples for the transformation of the world. 

Let’s start new conversations, continuing to think deeper about how we are connecting with our community. Let’s continue to seek ways to look outward, seeing and reaching all people around us. It starts with relationship in intentional ways. 

Look around on Sunday.  #SeeAllThePeople

Lisa Test
Minister of Outreach & Discipleship

Guest Writer Pastor Ed Volfe

“Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.”
Psalm 71:17

I grew up in the Methodist Church in Brazil, and my parents made me go to church every Sunday.  It was boring for me. The fun part of church, though, was when I met my friends for Sunday school and after the Sunday Service. And it was there and then, at a youthful age, that I learned to love God from watching leaders in the church loving God so passionately, both in words and deeds. Like the writer of Psalm 71, I too can say ‘to this day’ I declare God’s marvelous deeds!

This Sunday, Aug. 13, Worship will be led by our very own Crossfire Youth. It is important they continue to find their space and meaning in our midst so that the seed of love for God and neighbor will take roots in their hearts and minds, and become a thriving, fruitful tree of life in their adulthood.

See you at the place of renewal this Sunday!

Ed Volfe Associate Pastor

Ed Volfe
Associate Pastor

Youth Week Mission Day - On Tuesday our Crossfire Youth put together "Manna Bags" for people in need. These bags are filled with non-perishable items. Stop by the youth table on Sunday to grab a bag or two to keep in you car for that person who will need it the most! 

Youth Week Mission Day - On Tuesday our Crossfire Youth put together "Manna Bags" for people in need. These bags are filled with non-perishable items. Stop by the youth table on Sunday to grab a bag or two to keep in you car for that person who will need it the most!