When a boy takes a hunk of Play-doh and starts molding a skyscraper, it looks a bit blobby and shapeless for a while. As he continues to mash his thumbs in the stuff, his vision and architecture begin to take form. He feels a growing delight as the thing takes on a life of its own. At Storyline Arvada, we are beginning to feel like that little child. Countless things are starting to fall into place, the vision of the church is beginning to take incredible shape, and roughly 50 people are searching for a way to relocate to Denver to invest their lives in the startup!
Sadly, we know that most of our friends and family would love to join us on this journey, but for one good reason or another, are unable to make this kind of seismic move at this time. That’s OK, you can still be a HUGE help and a member of the team. Could I suggest four ways that you could make a significant impact in our new church start?
Help Us Start Storyline
1. Spread the word by retweeting and sharing social media.
We now have regular updates through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. When you retweet and share, you give Storyline an opportunity to reach out to all of your contacts and friends. It has been amazing how many people have relatives and friends in Denver. Connections are being made nearly every time we send out a message.
2. Lead your church to become a partner with Storyline.
On August 19-20, we are hosting a Vision Tour for pastors and churches who are seriously exploring a partnership with us. These special invites are for select churches who are searching for a national mission focus and feel prepared to invest with both time and funds. If your church would be interested in joining this exciting coalition, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s talk!
3. Give a one-time gift or commit to a regular gift.
It takes well over $1,000,000 to start a new church over the first 3.5 years. Most people don’t realize how costly it is to find space, purchase equipment, hire administrative help, send out mailers inviting the neighbors to come…etc. It has been an eye-opening experience! With your financial gift, you make it possible for us to invest in the community and to share God’s message of grace. You can give online or you can mail a check to our P.O. Box. Just click here.
4. Pray for Storyline.
Soon, we will start a prayer newsletter that will keep our supporters up to speed on needs and breakthroughs. Watch the website, www.storylinefellowship.com, for more details. Also, if you do not receive my regular, personal blog updates into your inbox, use the simple tool bar in the righthand corner of http://www.benmandrell.com to sign up. It’s so encouraging to Lynley and I to know that people are still praying and following what God is doing in our lives, family, and church.
Any way you feel led to serve Storyline is an enormous, humbling blessing. We love you all, and thank God for your friendship.
Ben and Lynley
Blessed is the man whom God corrects;
So do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.
For He wounds, but He also binds up;
He injures, but his hands also heal.
It seems that Ben and I like to roll into a city while they are in the midst of major weather patterns. We moved to Colorado in January amidst a major blizzard. We barely made it through. Our moving truck was not so fortunate and got delayed for three days. Skip ahead two weeks and we head to Orlando…just in time for a two week, rarely heard of, monsoon. (I could be exaggerating on the monsoon part but it helps for effect.)
During this time, we got a good taste of our new reality. We were brand new to a major city in which we knew where nothing was, and we knew no one to help us find said places. The rain finally subsided and I was thrilled that a neighbor stopped when driving down the street to seemingly greet me. I was so ready to meet a friend. She rolled down the window long enough to ask me if “all those kids were mine and if I was Catholic”? Ummmm…
Enter here the first blind spot the Lord began teaching me, Lynley, specifically. It was during these two weeks of isolation that I began to understand the true meaning of hospitality. As I did some research, I found that Webster’s dictionary defines hospitality in two ways:
- a generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests : hospitable treatment.
- The activity of providing food, drinks, etc. for people who are the guests or customers of an organization
Ironically, the lesser of importance (#2) is the one I put all my efforts into. I believed the act of hospitality was entertainment based. Now…my entertaining stronghold isn’t formal and fancy. Paper plates were my choice “china” when hosting families in our home. And we loved to host families in our homes! (Another point of conviction was that there wasn’t enough diversity of families but that’s another story.)
What I missed out on in “hospitality” was genuine, generous, and friendly treatment of visitors and guests. As I sat in our new mission home in Orlando, lonely and ready to throw Siri out the window for giving me roundabout ways to get to seemingly nearby destinations, I wondered how many people had moved into Jackson, our former neighborhoods, or our church and felt the exact same feelings?
I am ashamed to admit that I did such a poor job of even trying to understand or sympathize with this pain. Many sweet families joined the staff of EBC during our 7 years and I did little to nothing to specifically welcome them. We had guest speakers and missionaries visit and it’s likely they did not even receive a card of welcome or appreciation. New members would join the church and there was “no time” to give them. (I’m not forgetting that I couldn’t do all this in a church our size…I could have done more though!) This embarrassment led me to make a list in my journal of “what hospitality means to me” and resolved that I would implement this list in the future. The top of that list holds the verse, “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:13.
You see, for the Mandrell family, living in Jackson was not difficult in this aspect. Invitations were plentiful. People were so gracious to have us in their homes frequently. We received so much that we lost the art of giving it back. The Lord was actually being so gracious to let us experience life on the other side.
As I think about our new ministry in Denver, I feel the Lord calling me to lead out in the area of hospitality. Romans 12:13, rendered by the Holman Christian Standard Bible, reads “pursue hospitality.” That means we should be proactive in showing care for new people, not passive hoping they find their way around. As Launch Team members, mission teams, and even new staff members arrive, I hope that I can practice the ministry of hospitality and set the tone for Storyline. God has shown me how vital it is to be known and loved.
Congratulations to Jordan Easley on being named the 8th pastor of Englewood Baptist Church. With Jordan beginning his preaching ministry tomorrow, a springtime atmosphere is surely felt. It’s a new day, a hopeful time of anticipation. We thank God for his faithfulness through this time of transition. Scripture says that there is a time and a season for everything on the earth. Lynley and I celebrate this new season for EBC and look forward to watching the fruit come forth through Jordan’s leadership. We trust that the upcoming season for Englewood will be one of unity and growth.
The transition to Denver has been frought with danger! First, we drove into the city last Wednesday as humongous hail stones were being hurled from the heavens. It sounded like 500 major league pitchers throwing fastballs at the vehicles as we crawled along I-70 through Denver. We arrived at our house safely and immediately thanked God for keeping our windshields in one piece. I felt like I needed a two-hour nap.
Yesterday, we were convinced that Lynley had come down with the stomach bug. She laid in the bed all day, grimacing and holding her belly. Last night, after the kids went to bed, I brought her to an Urgent Care here in Denver and soon discovered that her appendix was ruptured. She was taken by ambulance to the hospital and put under the knife immediately. Again, we praise God for giving us the sense that something was seriously wrong and getting to the hospital before things grew worse.
As I write, my mother-in-law is heading to the airport to come to my relief. Since Lynley will be in the Lutheran Medical Center in Westminster for a few more days, I swallowed my pride and begged for reinforcements. I’m grateful for the help. Ava, who has a fascination with nurses, is sitting beside momma’s bed and helping me tend to her. I can’t help but wonder if she is already a nurse-in-training.
Finally, I want to thank God for our brand new neighbors, who have jumped in and loved on our boys today. Colorado hospitality is seriously underrated. We are so grateful to have new friends who have already become a support as we start this new life in Arvada. We appreciate every prayer as we persevere in this transition. Our God is faithful.
Lynley and I believe that that the time is ripe to begin sharing the gut-wrenching soul-work that God has been doing in our lives over the past few months. More than any other time in our marriage, we have been under His knife, painfully enduring numerous spiritual surgeries. The Lord has changed our hearts in dramatic ways, and we rejoice in God-appointed suffering (Rom. 5:3).
If you have been peeking at our blog since January, you probably have the impression that our life has been nothing but trips to Disney or the strawberry patch–that we have experienced nothing but pure joy in this unique season of church planting preparation. That’s what we call an illusion: something that appears real but is not. I chuckled at the sign I saw one day: “May your life someday be as awesome as you pretend it is on Facebook.” The Devil is always tempting us to deal in deception. Putting one’s best foot forward on social media is a subtle lie and one of Satan’s newest snares. Lynley and I want to fight against such spiritual charades by sharing a series of blog posts that describe the embarrassing imbalances or muted sins in our family life. We humbly ask for your prayers as we respond to God’s pruning.
Doing Church, Not Doing the Great Commission
One of the blind spots that God has showed us over the past few months is how little time and energy the Mandrell’s have devoted to building relationships with those who don’t share our faith. We are deeply embarrassed even writing this. In Orlando, as we stepped off the treadmill of ministry and saw our life from a distance, God revealed a gaping blind spot in our family. We didn’t make room in our lives for unbelievers.
Most of our time in Jackson, TN, was spent with wonderful, life-giving Christian people. We do not regret any of those relationships, but we do see how our love for the saints sucked up all of our emotional energy. It’s nobody’s fault but mine. As a pastor, outside of my weekly sermon preparation, nearly all of my ministry hours were spent in meetings with fellow Christians. I sat around countless tables, sipping coffee with Christians, engaging in robust conversations focused on increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization. We made plans and we drew stuff on whiteboards. We troubleshot our programs, and we bemoaned the obstacles that were holding us back from excellence in ministry. All this brain-effort was profitable, but something colossal was sadly being squeezed out of my life: authentic relationships with unchurched people.
If the Bible is true, that Jesus is the way and that no person comes to the Father except by Him, then the world we inhabit is an enormous Titanic, a party-ship filled with soon-to-die passengers. Most of these people do not see the iceberg, and by the looks of things, very few of them will make it into a lifeboat.
Like never before, the Lord has put His hand around our hearts, and squeezed with unprecedented pressure. Lynley and I sense a holy urgency to share the message of hope with those who have not heard. We resonate with the passion of Paul, who declared: “My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else (Rom. 15:20 NLT).” This is not a slam on the established church, but a challenge for all churches to become aggressively focused on loving those outside the walls.
I heard a missionary say once: “We are called to be fishers of men, not keepers of the aquarium.” How easy it is to lose our focus. I do not discount the role of discipleship, ministry to the saints, and worship inside the body. I simply assert that relational evangelism must no longer be an afterthought for our family. The purpose of our gathering is to catalyze the scattering.
Lynley and I look back over the past 13 years of our lives together and we feel repentant over the number of hours devoted to building relationships with people who had no plans to attend our church. As we prepare to launch Storyline Fellowship in Denver, we know that God is calling us to make a seismic shift in this area. Along with our Launch Team, we will open our home regularly to unchurched people–inviting them not to a location, but into our lives. We will strive to love people extravagantly, even if they never darken the doors of Storyline or ask probing questions about our Savior. We feel God calling us to a new paradigm in our personal ministry–to invest the lion’s share of our energy in those who have never felt the life-changing grace of Jesus.
More confessions to come…
Well, we have officially arrived in Denver, Colorado! It has been such a wonderful feeling to be in our home, settling in and getting acquainted with our new city. We feel so blessed to be launching this church and doing the Lord’s work. Over the past few months in Orlando, we learned an enormous amount about church planting and about ourselves. We plan to share much of that soul-work in future posts, but we wanted to reflect one last time on the joyful times in Florida. What a time of joy and refreshment it was for the six of us, as we filled up a treasure box of happy memories.
My intention for this post was to share my top 20 photos with a funny caption on each, but as I began to peruse our humongous stack of photos, it became overwhelming to pick my favorites. So, what you see below is a batch of totally random pictures that made me smile when I sorted them. Trips to theme parks, sunny bike rides, strawberry and blueberry picking, a picture of Max and Jack just after Max pulled his tooth out of his head, and some giggling, candid moments.
Joy is contagious. This family increases my joy and I thank God for each one of them, particularly Lynley and the hard work she demonstrates in creating a well-ordered, meaningful family life. Her gifting simply astounds me and I am reminded this year of what a great wife God gave to me. Lynley and I wish to thank First Baptist Orlando for this season of retreat, refocus, and refreshment.