Rest, Inc.

Part 1: A Gift of Restoration, Resilience, and Prophetic Perspective

Dear Friends—

We were in the middle of our first vacation ‘Out West’, somewhere between Colorado Springs, CO, and Yellowstone Park, WY, when my wife asked in a surprisingly calm voice, “So, what does happen when the pop-up mechanism of a pop-up trailer doesn’t pop?” Just minutes before I had explained that there was a high degree of probability that the lifting system on our trailer had broken. All I can say is that it was a most fascinating time with five kids. I only wish we had brought the dog and a couple of cats to make it more magical! Anyway, it was wonderful but not necessarily restful. You’ve probably had at least one of those vacations in your lifetime; you return home in desperate need of rest.

I’d like to address the topic of ‘rest’ in light of Jesus’ gracious appeal in Matthew 11 and how we can more fluidly incorporate rest into our lives. Why is rest (aside from sleeping) an essential but often missing ingredient in our daily schedules? I would say that without it—REST—we are much less effective in how we go about the work of ministry.

Are you presently resting from a place of work, or working from a place of rest? Perhaps we are relying more on our own efforts, programs, and plans than spending much-needed and regular time in the quiet place of abiding and rest. Clearly, Jesus’ ministry was rooted in and flowed from a place of silence and solitude, thus being still in seeking His Father’s directive (cf. Matthew 4:1-11, 14:23, 16:36-46, 17:1-9; Mark 6:31; Luke 5:16,6:12; and many more scriptural references). Jesus’ daily ‘schedule’ reflected a pattern of rest/retreat … and then an advance with the work of ministry/the Kingdom. I know there have been many occasions when, thankfully, dear ones (i.e., my wife, etc.) have lovingly challenged me to stop striving with my own agenda and energy and just rest.   

Jesus provides interesting insight on this topic of rest and the power it holds: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt. 11:28-30) Although this is one of the most familiar texts in the New Testament and there are two references to rest in these verses alone, it seems that we are hesitant to embrace Jesus’ very tender and attractive words! We all know that statistics will clearly expose this reality, but who needs statistics when we experience it first-hand?

Yet, ironically, rest may be the very thing that Jesus desires for His listeners—and that through rest many blessings will come. It is a gift. But, like Paul, we find ourselves torn and often caught in our own humanity, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15)

Part of the blessings of rest, and what I desire to leave with you, is both invitation and challenge. Please know that I do this as a sometimes weary but hopeful brother and colleague in Christ. The invitation is to simply embrace Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30 … and rest … knowing that His rest will bring you many unexpected graces, including the gift of restoration of your soul, resilience for the long-haul, and prophetic perspective in discerning the ‘spirit of the age’ (Ephesians 2:1-3). The challenge is to incorporate a regular pattern of rest—and Sabbath-taking—in our restless, relentless, and demanding worlds!

If we can integrate daily encounters with rest into our schedules, and thereby establish rest as a predictable pattern in our daily routine, then will we not hear God more easily and trust His leading more readily? Doesn’t this become an intentional act of resting our faith on His Grace, being released of so much work (which can become works/law; Romans 4:16 & 5:2)?

Out of this wellspring of Rest, Inc., may you experience an early springtime of the soul! When the care of your own life is established in rest, then the privileged work of ministry (i.e., disciple-making, missional outreach, etc.) will flourish. I hope to address this in Part II of Rest, Inc.

In Christ,

K. Craig Moorman

Daily Devotion Options

Editor’s Note:  Rev. Dr. Douglas Schoelles joined the board of Lutheran CORE earlier this year.  Rev. Jeffray Greene has been writing devotions for us for a long time. We are grateful to them both for their valuable contributions to Lutheran CORE.

Lutheran CORE’s readers have been faithfully absorbing Rev. Greene’s daily devotions for many years. Some read them via the website and others view them on Twitter or on our Facebook page.

But it’s nice to have options. Pastor Schoelles enables you to watch a video or listen to audio in the car. He records The Daily Plunge in which he encourages “a quick swim in the day’s scripture reading.” Pr. Schoelles says he works his way through books of the Bible in bite-sized pieces. And by bite-sized he means videos in the 4–5-minute range. Definitely digestible!

Dr. Schoelles recently asked Lutheran CORE if we would like to link to his devotionals from our website. The answer was yes, thank you! And so now we can listen, watch or follow along by 1) listening to the audio, 2) watching via YouTube, or 3) following along on his Facebook page. Click here to open our new Daily Plunge Bible Study page where you can choose the option which best suits you. Also, click here to see Dr. Schoelles’ playlists arranged by books of the Bible.

Currently, Rev. Greene is about halfway through the book of Revelation while Dr. Schoelles is wading through 1 Corinthians. Please join us!

Both sets of devotions are available each day. Check here to see our new Devotions page. The Daily Devotions page and the new Daily Plunge Bible Study page are subpages under it but can also be accessed via the Devotions page.

Click here to see our revised web map reflecting these changes.

Discipling Your Online Worshipers

With the Delta variant reminding us that this pandemic will be around at least into 2022, many congregations are facing the fact that they will not be seeing a significant percentage of their members returning to in-person worship this fall.  And the longer some members continue to only worship online, the more likely many of them will rarely, if ever, return to worship in your sanctuary.

 As I have been coaching church transition teams and call committees over the last eighteen months I always ask what their current attendance is compared to 2019.  In almost all cases the answer is that average in-person worship attendance has dropped 30 to 50%.

Needless to say, this is a serious congregational ministry crisis that needs to be addressed.  But what can be done?  I suggest two strategies.  One is to provide an on-going, quality member-care ministry for every member who worshiped regularly in 2019 but has been consistently absent from in-person services since then.  The second strategy is to institute ways these online worshipers can be engaged and discipled by and through your weekly online sermons.  Only a combination of these two strategies, in my view, will significantly reduce the number of online worshipers who will eventually be lost to inactivity.

Your member-care effort should include phone conversations, every two to four weeks, with lay volunteers who have been recruited and “trained” for this ministry.  These conversations would be to see how this person is doing, and to ask if he/she has any personal prayer requests.  The volunteer would not only offer to pray personally for the member; he/she would volunteer to pass the prayer request on to the congregation’s prayer team.  Ideally, each of these online worshipers should be contacted, consistently, by the same volunteer. 

Now for the second strategy: Striving to engage online worshipers through your weekly sermons.  One example is how one LCMC congregation in suburban St. Louis used a sermon series on the Gospel of Mark to encourage both in-person and online worshipers to read the entire Gospel.  Members were asked to read a chapter each week in preparation for the following Sunday’s sermon.  The chapters were broken down into daily devotional reading texts to encourage members to develop a daily Bible-reading discipline.  Another idea would be to invite online comments regarding the next Sunday’s sermon theme.  This feedback could be in the form of survey questions where their answers—sent in via email—could be incorporated (anonymously) into the following Sunday’s message.  One more idea is to offer a mid-week online, interactive Bible study for members who are on Facebook.  This would make it possible for live “classes” where participants could make comments in real time.  The result would be a discussion-oriented Bible class/devotional time.  And finally, why not have your congregation host one or more weekly Zoom Bible studies?  This could achieve a group dynamic which would be almost the same as gathering in person.  I have done a lot of work these last eighteen months on Zoom.  I find these Zoom meetings to be very discussion-oriented; especially when the total number of participants is not more than six to nine people.  And since the beginning of this pandemic a great many more Americans have become comfortable with and open to the idea of gathering and conversing online. 

All the above suggestions would help prevent increased inactivity among those members who are not yet able—or comfortable enough—to return to your in-person worship services and classes.  However, please note that the second-strategy ideas above presume that you will continue to offer online worship; at least as long as this pandemic continues.  You will want to do this not only for your members, but also as an outreach to the unchurched in your community.