I Want You to See Something about Ablaze

For up-to-date Synodical News Check the Synodical Convention Link. They have tabs built within that allow you view live streaming video of what is really going on down there. I love it!

I’ve been talking about our Synodical Conference this week and while doing so I realized that I use the terms Ablaze rather interchangeably. This has been confusing to people, especially to those outside of our Lutheran Circle. Let me clarify if I may.

There is ABLAZE! which refers to our Synodical Mission Program (something our family and home congregation supports) and there is Ablaze, the church plant in Northern Broken Arrow which is sponsored by The Lutheran Church of Our Savior. I didn’t pick the name – so don’t ask me why we named it that, I don’t know.  I realize that unless you are part of our group, it’s really hard to distinguish what I’m talking about. Most of the conversations this week have been about the ABLAZE! initiative. For today’s post, I will be talking about Ablaze Church.

While some church plants receive funding from their districts, others are privately funded. We at Ablaze Church do not receive a dime of the Fan into Flame funding, and we are okay with that. There is another church plant in Bixby that does get district assistance and they need it more than we do.  Thier Vicar (who is under direct supervision of a local pastor) has to raise his own salary and funding for his church and deserves a livable wage. Our pastor is already earning a salary from our home church and the time spent at Ablaze is 100% volunteer. He does not get compensated for his time there – and neither do the rest of us. We are all volunteers. All funding we receive is courtesy of our home congregation and private donations or tithes made by Ablaze families.

Our little mission start began on Easter weekend in 2006. We rent space from Liberty Elementary School and meet on Saturday nights with Bible Study at 6pm and services beginning at 6:30. Because of the rental costs and rules of the school we have to be out by 9:00 pm.  Also because of rental costs, we can really only afford to be there one night a week. That does not leave a lot of opportunities for outreach which is why we host events from time to time.

Ablaze church is a 100% a mobile church. What that means is we have a trailer locked up at our home congregation across town. Every Saturday at 3:00 pm, a group drives out there, loads the trailer and drives it back to Liberty, 30 minutes away. The doors open at 4:00pm and for the next two hours we are unloading our trailer, setting up the cafeteria and running sound checks.

Can you imagine if the elders of your church had to do that every Sunday Morning? They arrive to a building with no pews, no sound system, no pulpit, no coffee or snacks, no Bibles or hymnals and they have to set everything up before church can begin?

Services at Ablaze end by 8pm. We have a short time of fellowship and our team begins to take down the sound system, pack up the nursery and the bibles and books and load everything back into the trailer. We pray and are back on the road to Our Savior’s garage by 9pm. Once there, our team unloads the trailer and puts the sound system back inside the church to protect it from the climate.

We’ve been doing this every Saturday for 4 1/2 years.

We've added new faces since this photo was taken, but this is Zion's Fire.

Yes, we have a praise band called Zion’s fire to lead worship. And yes, they do contemporary Christian songs as well as reworked hymns and original compositions. We also have confession and absolution, and pastor Dreier delivers not only the children’s message, but the sermon as well.

We decided early on that we wanted our signature outreach event to be the Easter Egg Hunt.  Most churches today are only doing hunts within the privacy of their own court yards, for their own congregations. We wanted to be different. We wanted to reach the young families in the neighborhood. And so we opened our first weekend with 4,000 eggs and about 100 prizes. It was cold and snowy that day and we expected at most 100-200 people.

Pastor delivering the Easter Egg Hunt Devotional to about 500 kids

750 people showed up that day, filling the cafeteria. People were standing in the hallway to hear the message. And we were blown away. Seeing the need in the community, we went bigger the next year and planned for 8,000 eggs.

Over 60 volunteers gathered to stuff eggs and help with the hunt.

We made a few mistakes with the hunt in 2007.  I’d gather that anywhere from 1,500-2,000 people showed up and we were only expecting 1,000 at the most. We didn’t want to turn people away and yet, our building could not contain the crowds. We learned a lot of hard lessons that year. This event failed on many levels. There was a crowd gathering outside while we were worshipping inside and even though people were stationed out there to guard the eggs families were lining up, a child yelled “go” and like that, all 8,000 eggs were gone. We learned a lot that year. We learned that we needed to be 100% outside. We learned to shorten the service. We learned to combine this with a food drive, to equip team members with walkie talkies, and to have security present. Did the results of this event keep us from trying again?

No. In 2008 we tried again, this time with 12,000 eggs and instead of placing them out in the field before hand, we roped and sectioned it off and placed eggs after people arrived. We also asked families to donate a can of food for Neighbor for Neighbor as they came onto the grounds.

We filled over 35 crates of food for Neighbor for Nieghbor.
Tupper Teaching the Children about the Resurrection - being a new creation in Christ using Balloons.

We also did something unusual. We hired a clown to deliver the message. That is not a typo folks. We hired Stephen Smith, otherwise known as Tupper the Clown, to deliver the message for our hunt.

Do you see how many kids are there? We couldn’t count them. A lot of these families probably have a home church and a lot of these families don’t.  Several families have joined Ablaze church as the result of these egg hunts. And all of these families are invited back to Our Savior for our Easter morning worship services.
For those curious or even offended about the use of a clown to deliver the message that day, Steve Smith is an ordained minister and preachers kids to boot.  He owns and operates Christian Sanity Theater and performs throughout the state teaching children about science, history, and Jesus Christ. You can learn more about him by clicking here to see his websight.  I have personally hired Steve for personal parties as well as fundraisers. He is very gifted.
We’ve done other events as well including a fall festival. We wanted to do something to counter Halloween.
We invited various bands to come perform. This photo is the Axis Worship Band from Rhema
We also invited Christian Comic Michele VanDusen to provide CLEAN FAMILY FRIENDLY entertainment.
Michele VanDusen bringing laughter to the stage.
Local rancher and member of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Dale Brookshire brought his chuck wagon for eats.
Everyone Enjoyed Dale's Authentic Cowboy Chuck Wagon
And again we have the children. That come out to Ablaze either on Saturday nights or for our events.
Neighborhood children enjoying a wet inflatable during Fall Fest
And of course, no church event is complete without pastor Dreier proclaiming the gospel of Christ.
Ablaze Church in Broken Arrow meets faithfully every Saturday Night at Liberty Elementary School in Broken Arrow. We hold various events throughout the year in order to reach out to the community. We also transport Ablaze youth to Vacation Bible School at Our Savior every year.
We are presently looking at a permanent home for ourselves and need your prayers that God would lead us in the right direction very soon.
Next week, I’ll talk about some of the things Our Savior Lutheran Church in Tulsa does for their LOCAL community as well.

Ablaze Church LCMS Keeps on Ticking

“Pastor, I don’t feel comfortable with all of these new people coming to our church. I mean just look at them. They aren’t like us.” — Real Quote from a real Elder to a real pastor. What was he complaining about; the 300 + new members that joined the church from 1991-1994 ish. My husband and I were part of that group of new members. I’m not sure if that made God laugh, or cry. I do know that He knows the plans he had for them and us, and today God just smiles.

Skaters shred through the school parking lot every Saturday while we have church. They come close enough to hear the music and glance at the people walking in, but that is it. They have bigger things to do with their time on Saturday night than visit our little mission start. They seem more focused on the curls, kicks, flips, and stops they are trying to perfect than they are us.

They are pretty rough around the edges, these skater boys. They aren’t like us. Or are they? Our door is open, they hear the music as they skate and shred and whatever else they call what they are doing. Sometimes I could swear they slow down just a little with each pass. I could be wrong though.

Funny thing about our little mission start who, worships 50-60 people a week, we have teenagers. Lots of teenagers. While the adults appear invisible to these skaters, the teen girls don’t. So they decide to pay a visit this week.

I’d like to say, they came to worship. But they didn’t. They came to cut up and tease one of the girls they knew from school. All three boys went to teens church and proved to be a challenge for our teachers.

During our prayers in the main hall, separate fro the teens, pastor prayed for those boys. He told God that while we think we know why they came in (girls), we pray that God would call out to them, be real for them and make them his.

When church ended, one of the skater boys left. The other two? They sought out pastor – apologized for the disruption and asked about Jesus.

“What do we need to do to be saved?”

They asked that!

Hmmm.. Kinda reminds me of another group of “not like us” people. The ones the Pharisees didn’t like. The ones who followed Christ in all their humanity and brokenness. They asked the same question of their own Rabbi, Christ. And he answered, “Believe in the one whom God has sent.”

Pastor and those boys sat down on the steps of our make shift alter, the cafeteria stage and prayed.

That’s why we are there!

Forget the politics. Forget about the present ELCA vs LCMS drama. Forget everything. But don’t forget those boys. God didn’t.


Ablaze Church Egg Hunt 2009

Everyone is asking how our Egg Hunt went. It went great. Or at least that is what the families who came, told us.

Was it a long day? Yes. Being a mobile church is not always easy. We have to set up and tear down every week. The great thing though is how happy and how willing everyone is to be a part of this.

Our “normal” day starts at 3 pm and ends about 10 pm. With the hunt, people were there starting at 11. I brought lunch for everyone at 3:00 and I’m glad I did. Feeding the workers is the least I can do.

We did change some things from last year. Our hunt was 100% outside and the weather cooperated beautifully. Zion’s Fire did not play this year, which simplified our set up. We hired Stephen Smith, AKA Tupper, to be our speaker / entertainer.

Some people might not “get” the whole hiring a clown thing, but if you are from Tulsa, you know Tupper.  Stephen travels all over the state, as several different characters, educating children and spreading the gospel of Christ. Stephen is an ordained minister, preachers kid, and has a heart for families and Christ that is amazing.

Admission to the hunt was one canned food item and we collected 27 crates of food for Broken Arrow Neighbors food bank. We also waited on putting the eggs out until it was time to actually hunt, thus cutting down the whole anxiety factor for the kids.

Simple changes with profound results.

We counted 450 children give or take two or three. All of them happy. The smiles alone are so worth the weeks of planning and work.

Here are just a few pictures from Saturday.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Ablaze Easter 2009
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Igniting the World

People have to fuss and fume about something, don’t they? I have my days where that is true for me too so I’m not pointing fingers. After all, if you read my blog you know that I have been fussing and fuming myself over things that I cannot control. I can’t control what people think about the Ablaze Initiative in any way shape or form. And just because they choose to fuss and fume, does not mean I need to follow suit and be discouraged. Do you know what I mean?

My family and friends are heartfelt and dedicated to mission work in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Most days we plug along and do well, and some days we make the mistake of listening to the nay sayers who accuse this Initiative by LCMS as “UnGodly” and “Bad Theology.” They are arguing over words and over chinks in the planning.

We try really hard to stay out of the muck and mire of those commentaries, unfortunately that isn’t always possible. I’ll be honest, we are more discouraged by the open (and at times brutally harsh) discourse among the pastors against this movement than anything else. Listening to those comments (cheeky or otherwise) is (to us) the equivalent of a pastor having to read or listen to his congregation attacking his work as shepherd. We feel greatly discouraged by it and cannot understand the real issues behind the issue.

The trick to not being so open to discouragement, is to find the worm-holes (rings, social networks) and stay out of them. Granted some of their issues are good and some do need to be addressed. Those of us in the field, however, are too busy working to fight it out with the big dogs, so we stay out of it.

Our Mission Start is actually a daughter congregation of the Lutheran Church of Our Savior. We are financially supported though voluntary contributions of members (into a dedicated fund)and not District offices or the Synod office. “Ablaze Funds” do not reach us. That is in part because our congregation can afford most of the expenses, we just can’t afford payroll – so none of us get paid. Pastor goes back and forth between the home congregation and the mission start every weekend. We are looking at programs that would allow funding and we may receive it down the line.

Other questions that I hear in church from other boards are these:

“How do we know this whole outreach thing is even going to work?”

I hear this one a lot. We are called to go forth and make disciples. That was Christ’s commission. God will take care of the harvest. I can’t promise anyone that our “numbers in the pew” will increase greatly. Having them be baptized or confirmed and join is great, no doubt and yes that is what we want long term. What I do know today though there are enough of us who walked ourselves to church or events as kids and while we did not join the church that hosted the event? We are pastors, youth leaders (DCE’s), and vital members within our present congregations and communities. Someone sowed seeds, God grew them, and LCMS get’s the harvest of those efforts today. I think we count as well.

Speaking of counting: Synod decided to set up a counting page, a tool really, nothing more nothing less. It’s meant for encouragement and not demographics. To keep it simple they are only counting one on one experiences of sharing the Gospel with someone else. This is just a tool to help inspire people to share the Gospel. They are not counting “saved souls,” they are counting experiences. For a better explanation on the whole counting process – click HERE

“Is Ablaze theologically sound?” YES it is – Click HERE to see Synod’s explanation.

What about funding? How are the funds being disbursed?
Okay that’s a real issue. We don’t understand it ourselves. Programs that would allow for funding are still being developed and all of the churches are looking into them.

“I don’t like the word FIRE in this campaign. Fire is a bad thing in the Bible.” – If you are just looking for the word “fire” then yes, I’m in agreement that most scriptures are negative about that word. But what about the synonyms? See Foundations of Ablaze for a better explanation on this topic.

“Igniting the world with God’s Love” – is figurative language. Fire is not always bad. Christ himself said “I’d rather you were hot or cold instead of Luke Warm” God does not want a lukewarm church – he wants heat, he wants passion. He wants fire. A Holy Fire instilled in us by Him –

Those aren’t bad things.

So.. for more information on the Ablaze Movement click HERE and see.

Is it perfect? No. Are there bugs to be worked out in how all of this shakes down to the workers? yes. Is it worth it? Well, if you call having a young girl (who first started coming because of an Egg Hunt two years ago) go flying through the air and into your arms every time she sees you worth it? Then yes, I do believe it is.

What I Was Really Upset About

I accidentally posted a rant blog. Right here, Right in this space. I’d meant to save it as a draft, but hit publish instead.

Maybe it wasn’t an accident. Maybe – it was a subconscious passive aggressive way of saying what I really feel. Of saying that I’m tired of LCMS ripping itself apart.
rather than a page of my mindless ranting, why don’t I simply tell you the truth about what set me off.

Pictures like these on LCMS blogs.

With scripture like this to back it up. Malachi 4:1 (ESV) “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.”

That – is what set me off.

I search for other Ablaze bloggers and I find hate – and dissension. I find very few people on the blogosphere speaking positively about the Mission of LCMS today and it saddens me. My enough button got pushed. I got discouraged, for a day.

I woke up this morning, and I studied my new verse, like I do every morning, and I remembered God’s word’s to me this month:

Hebrews 10:35-36 – “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded, you need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.”

My confidence is not in politics, pastors, church boards or myself. My confidence is in Christ Alone.

It’s just not “Lutheran” unless…

Galatians 4:8-11 “
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you. “

Do you know that I grew up less than a block away from a Lutheran Church. They were so secretive and so seclusionary that our neighborhood honestly believed them to be a cult. Today, I’m an LCMS Lutheran at first by marriage and now by confirmation. I believe in the tenants of faith. I believe in scripture alone, faith alone, and grace alone. I believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

I love what I’m seeing LCMS do. The missions, the outreach, the hope in Christ. We serve a greater purpose today than just to ourselves. We’re following Christ’s words – we’re out there – proclaiming the Gospel. I love it!

Synod allows for autonomy in our individual congregations. Some congregations are very High Episcopal in worship style, while others are more open and contemporary. And we have everything in between. What’s intersting to me, or disconcerting depended on your view point is how often we as a body bicker back and forth about what is and isn’t acceptable to God when it comes to worship styles. I was really disheartened by that until I looked at Galatians recently – the bickering goes back a coupla thousand years. I also found this Martin Luther Quote – on a blog (I’ve forgotten where and I’m sorry to the author I thought I’d bookmarked it) – and low – this “argument” existed in his day as well.

I wanted to simply share the words of Martin Luther with you today. Considering that he is the guy who wrote A Mighty Fortress is Our God – to the tune of a modern day bar song – he’s been on the receiving end of a lot of guff himself. His thoughts facinate me.

Martin Luther, from his Lectures on Galatians (CPH 1963), re: Gal. 4:8-11
“There is no middle ground between human working and the knowledge of Christ; if this knowledge is obscured, it does not matter whether you become a monk or a heathen afterwards.

“Therefore it is completely insane when the papists and the Turks do battle against each other about religion and the worship of God; each contends that he has the true religion and worship of God. In fact, even the monks are not in agreement among themselves; one wants to be regarded as holier than another merely because of some foolish outward ceremonies, when in their hearts the opinions of them all are more alike than eggs. For this is what they all think: ‘If I do this work, God will have mercy on me; if I do not, He will be wrathful.’

“Therefore every man who falls away from the knowledge of Christ necessarily rushes into idolatry; for he must invent a form for God that does not exist anywhere, as the Carthusian trusts that because of his observance of his monastic rule, and the Turk that because of his observance of the Koran, he pleases God and will receive from Him the reward for his labor.

“A God of this kind, who forgives sins and justifies in this manner, cannot be found anywhere. Therefore it is all a vain imagination and a dream, the invention of an idol in the heart. For nowhere has God promised that He intends to justify men and save them on account of religious orders, observances, and forms of worship that have been thought up and established by men. In fact, as all Scripture attests, nothing is more abominable to God than such self-chosen works and forms of worship; He even overthrows kingdoms and empires on account of such things.

“Therefore all those who trust in their own ability and righteousness are serving a god who by nature is no god but is a god only in their opinion. For He who is true God by nature speaks this way: ‘I am not pleased with any righteousness, wisdom, or religious observance except the one by which the Father is glorified through the Son. Whoever takes hold of this Son and of Me or of My promise in Him through faith—to him I am God, to him I am Father; him I accept, justify, and save. All the rest remain under wrath, because they worship him who by nature is no god.’

“Whoever defects from this doctrine will necessarily fall into an ignorance of God and an ignorance of the righteousness, wisdom, and proper worship of God. He will be an idolater, remaining under the Law, sin, death, and the rule of the devil; and everything that he does will be lost and condemned.”

Ablaze Church, Outreach Continues

One of our core values as a mission start is to be a vital part of the community. We do this by hosting events and giving back to the families in Northern Broken Arrow.

Team members have served lunch for local school teachers on numerous occasions. We’ve also collected food for the local food bank Broken Arrow Neighbors and we even held a fall festival to celebrate Reformation.

Errick and Jen headed up our fall festival and we put into practice the things we learned from our Egg Hunt. 1. Walkie Talkies 2. It was 100 % outdoors. We rented a stage from Tulsa Parks, and had several bands playing through out the day. There were about 100 or so people from the community through out the afternoon. Everyone enjoyed themselves and our fall festival is going to become an annual event.

Come summer, we’ll have car washes and free concerts including local musicians and Christian comedians.

We are starting to “get it” if you will. We’ve learned in our two plus years together that God doesn’t so much as call the equipped as he equips the called. Our team has changed over the years. Some of our original team members have gone on to lead in other places, and new members have come in.

One of the other things we do have, and need is group bible study. Once a month we meet as team at Our Savior and we are studying the book, Leadership from the Inside Out. This is our time to regroup, recharge, and renew.

What makes our mission team unique is that we are all leaders in our home congregation as well. We lead the youth group, teach Sunday school for youth and adults, play in our church praise team and do outreach there as well. On Saturdays we lead worship at Ablaze, on Sundays we rest and worship with our home congregation. It’s sometimes harder this way – belonging to two churches – and yet it’s easier because we have a place to rest.

I once asked someone who travels and speaks, “How do you lead worship and still worship yourself?” and she sent me back to Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”

Our team submits themselves to God, with great joy. This is our spiritual act of worship.

Ablaze Church Egg Hunt 2008, Broken Arrow

Our first Easter Egg Hunt at Ablaze Church was such a success and we were so inspired by the turn out, that we decided to host another one in 2008. Our team wanted to do a joint venture with Lord of Life across town and both teams had so much fun, planning, stuffing, buying things that we just knew God was going to bless our endeavor and use us to bless the neighborhood. We got to know people at LOL and they got to know us and we had so much fun planning this together.

We had over 8,000 eggs stuffed with candy and a lot of prizes. We had juice and cookies, live music and a message from pastor. We prayed for good weather. This was going to be awesome!

We learned a lot that year.

We learned that there is more to planning such an event than good intentions. We learned that we should have been outside, and that the need for such an event was larger than we could have imagined. Both churches settled in and set up and waited for the 750 people we were sure would show up.

We underestimated the crowds. Oh, we had 750 people all right give or take an additional 1,500. Mostly give. Our group of 50 volunteers wasn’t enough.

We learned so many things being over run. People kept filing in, and past the cafeteria to a holding place in the gym and finally to out back where our team of hunt coordinators waited – there were no walkie talkies between us, and no way of managing this crowd. While people inside worshipped, people outside broke past our lines and took all 8,000 eggs. Leaving about 1,000 people without anything.

Some of us ran for the hills, following in Peter’s footsteps of “I don’t know them.” Some of us tried to manage angry crowds from out front and some of us jumped under the prize pavilion splitting up prize baskets and handing out candy to the kids who didn’t get any.

We had things thrown at us, we watched parents walk right up and steal baskets from out of our hands saying their kid didn’t get anything and deserved it. We were sworn at, spit on, and screamed at – all by adults and in front of their children and ours.
Someone even stole my son’s digital camera.

Not all ministry events go as planned.

What I remember most about the day though, isn’t the screaming, crying (myself) and swearing. What I remember is watching our team (that stayed) take off their He is Risen shirts that we had made for the day and pass them out. I remember several neighborhood families jumping into the pavilion with us and drawing their swords at the angry crowd to help and defend us. We gathered up as much candy as we could, split up all the prizes that were left and passed out everything we had – including for some, the shirt off our own backs.

When it was all over, we threw away all of the previous entries for the drawing of the free bikes, and let everyone who stayed fill out a new entry and we gave the bikes away to two families.

We wanted to be Christ with skin on, we wanted to minister to the community in which we serve, and they ministered to us.

Mission work is not always fun, not always easy, nor does it always turn out the way we want. We left the school that day heartbroken, angry, and hurt – hurting not for ourselves but for the overwhelming needs that we saw.

See – we prayed over those eggs. We prayed that each person who touched an egg would be filled to the measure they needed with the Holy Spirit – we discerned some simply had greater need than others.

We all went home after the hunt, for a little while to rest before church started that evening. I went home, drank a glass of wine, cried and prayed. Then we came back at 7:00 to worship the one and only living God. 100% God, and 100% man. He too knows the crowds. He too was mocked, spit upon, sworn at and rejected. In His death and ressurection we find our life.

We all came back – every one of us to praise the living King and to thank him for the glimpse we got into the hurting of his people. And yet, one family of five stayed – and is still with us and they bring friends. Two more families remember us, and visit from time to time to pray with us and encourage us.

We made mistakes. We didn’t count the crowd and have a cut off. We didn’t have walkie talkies to communicate across campus. We didn’t have security. We over advertised. We were ill prepared.

But not this year. This year, we are trying again. This year, God willing, we will be prepared for those he sends us.

Updates on the hunt for 2009

Easter 2007, Ablaze Church

I can remember the awe over having 500 people show up for our first ever community egg hunt at Ablaze. Seeing the faces, the families and the children just filled our hearts with joy.
Tina Funkhauser and I led the kids in songs while everyone was coming in.
We did have to change a few things like bring the inflatable into the gym of the school, and we actually ran out of parking. People began parking along 209th East Avenue and walked to the school. But you know, it was okay. Things did get a little cozy after a while, nobody seemed to mind. Everyone was in a good mood. Everyone who came in was treated to hot chocolate, music by Zion’s Fire, and a great Easter message by Pastor Dreier. We also gave away t-shirts made just for that day that said Ablaze Live Church so that people would remember where to come back.

Say “goodnight” Emma!

The Mission Start that Almost Wasn’t

I have a confession to make. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be a missionary, or be part of a church plant. I mean I just couldn’t see it. I wasn’t exactly raised in the church – mission work was for nuns, or something like that. I never would have pictured this and yet, here we are. This Easter will mark our third Easter Service as an active Mission Plant in Northern Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Ablaze Church began with a group of seven individuals busy at work, planning, praying, hoping, and answering God’s call. Then our numbers grew to eight then ten and then twelve.

To be honest, we didn’t start out wanting to be missionaries. The Christian Worship Band, Zion’s Fire does community outreach events, using contemporary Christian music to reach people with the Gospel of Christ.

(Zion’s Fire: Jeff O’Hara, Jason Hulings, Chis Taylor, Tina Funkhauser and Travis Patterson)

In late 2005 they began a Sunday evening Praise service at our home church, hoping to reach out to the local community and our youth. Several of us worked along side with the band, and with pastor – who over saw the whole thing – developing devotionals, messages, and worship. While the liturgy style was open, the doctrine remained absolute and our service reflected the confessional nature of our home church and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod as a whole.

LCMS began a new program called the Ablaze Movement and challenged congregations and districts to prayfully consider planting 2,000 new churches. What a task!

Pastor approached our feable little worship team in the summer of 2006 and asked us to prayfully consider being a part of this endeavor. We were already doing a live worship opportunity for the community. God had already paved a way for the team to gain experience and knowledge, and while we felt comfortable leading worship – a Mission Start? That was huge.

Everyone promised that they would pray. We came together in prayer and in research. Pastor found a grant program (The ARC Program) that could possibly help fund this, and they found a location in Northern Broken Arrow. Our home congregation The Lutheran Church of Our Savior, voted to plant a new LCMS Mission Start in Northern Broken Arrow, in December of 2006. We now knew, this was God’s direction for all of us, and we were excited.

Five different men throughout the Tulsa area took the church planters test (a requirement for the ARC program) – Only two men scored high enough to be recommended as church planters; Pastor Dreier, and another gentleman across town.

From a single seed – two church plants began. District started a plant called Lord of Life with Jonathan using the ARC program and Our Savior started a plant with our little team. One seed – and look what it did. What an incredible gift of God.

Finding out we did not qualify for ARC support was disappointing, but we did not let it make us quit. The ARC program would be used across town, and that was a great blessing for them.

Our team turned it over to God. If this was His will, we reasoned, He could provide the funding. And provide he did. Dozen’s of people stepped forward with several thousand dollars in donations, for equipment, gear, and rent. God’s provisions overflowed.

We opened with a community egg hunt. The weather outside was bitter cold, and we didn’t know what to expect. But we prepared, the eggs were stuffed and placed, the inflatable was inflated, the messages prepared, the prizes accounted for, volunteers in place and we waited and waited some more.

At 9:45 am – with no one arriving yet – we walked into the parking lot with Pastor, and prayed. By 10:15 – this is what we saw.

The line just grew, and grew.

Over 500 hundred arrived, in spite of the bitter cold and threats of snow, for our first annual Community Egg Hunt.

About 100 of them came back that evening for our Easter Service. Three families who were present that day, stayed with us and helped plant God’s new church.

This Easter will mark the beginning of our third year walking with God in our back yard. What an awesome journey it has been.

While we celebrate God’s truths this year, I’ll be taking a look back at some of the wonder of being part of His plan. Stay tuned for more pictures, and more updates about our little mission start – and the heart of God.