“To Go or Not to Go”


“Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” ~ Hebrews 10: 23-25

In a recent article, “How Skipping Church Affects Our Children,” Carl Truemann was quoted as saying,

“The church is losing its young people because the parents never taught their children that it was important. I think that applies across the board. It applies to family worship, and it also applies to whether you are in church every Sunday and what priority you demonstrate to your children church has on a Sunday. If the sun shines out and their friends are going to the beach, do you decide to skip church and go to the beach? In which case, you send signals to your children that it is not important.”

Now before you stop reading because you figure this is just one of those articles that’s gonna make you feel guilty about not going to church, don’t!  I encourage you to read on.

The “How Skipping Church…” article goes on to remind us that simply being in church doesn’t guarantee a quality relationship with Jesus Christ or a vital faith, much the same way just showing up at the gym won’t help me get into shape and live a healthy life—there’s much more to it—but that’s a conversation for another time.  Instead I’ve been thinking about church attendance in the summer time, especially when you’re on vacation.

So, let me ask you a question: “When you’re on vacation, do you attend worship?”  Many summers my family and I vacation in Minong, Wisconsin, a small, quiet place in the northwest of the state.  We spend a week in a cabin on “Nancy Lake,” where we’ve been going for about 12 years, and where my family has been going for more than 50 years.  While there we visit “The River Church,” pastored by Ben Kidder.  It’s a great little church, and I’ve learned a lot.

First, as a pastor, it’s always nice to worship with my family.  I can go and be a “parishioner,” and that’s great, especially because it helps me see the life of church from your perspective.  Sometimes we forget to do that—to experience life through the eyes of someone else; consider what it’s like from a perspective different from our own.  When my family and I visit the church, we’re just that—visitors!  This helps me remember what it’s like to be a visitor.  I’ll never forget the FIRST time we visited “The River.”  We were nervous about what to do, where we should go, where we should sit (we didn’t want to sit in someone’s pew), what we could expect, what would there be for the boys, was it expected of them to go to “children’s church,” or could they stay with us?  There were so many questions, and the experience helped me remember that as a church, we only get once chance to make a first impression.

There’s a lot we assume guests know when they visit our church.  There’s a lot we don’t think about because “we know the routine,” and there’s a lot we overlook because we’ve lived with “it” (whatever it is) for so long.

I used to have a little Suzuki Swift that I loved to drive.  It didn’t have a radio, the turn signal switch was backwards, you had to jiggle the ignition to get it to start, and you had to hold the driver’s side window with one hand and crank it up with the other… it had a lot of idiosyncrasies that to me were endearing qualities, and made it MY car.  Becky hated to drive it, and so did everyone else.  Maybe that’s why I liked the cars “issues,” because then it was all mine.  So what about our church?

There are a LOT of great reasons why we should go to church, and one them, especially when we’re traveling and on vacation, is so we can remember what’s it’s like to be a visitor; to experience first-hand why “radical hospitality” is so important in the life of a growing congregation.

I love visiting other churches when I’m on vacation and when traveling to new places, because I get to hear great sermons, meet new people, collect good ideas for new ministries, gather resources, and most of all, remember what it’s like to be a visitor.  I come home with a new perspective: “it’s not about me.”

So, let us meet with one another, and as we do, let us never forget that when we gather we’re to encourage one another—especially the visitor among us—and remember that Jesus taught us: when we come, we come to serve, not seeking to be served.

In Surrender and Service to Christ,

Pastor Don


February & Family

Phyllis has a February Birthday. So for the past few years we, as a family, have gotten together in February to celebrate her. And…we have gotten into another February tradition of celebrating Christmas with Phyllis’ side of the family. Typically we are gathered somewhere in Cook County Illinois for these two events.

We know that ‘typical’ hardly describes what family structures are today, but we think of ourselves as a somewhat non-exceptional group of people. We are united by love. We are hugely diverse. But we are joined together by God.

Even though we each bring our uniqueness to the family table, not one of us is the center of our family universe. We each are equal and important as God heads up our home. We do not have to like, understand or agree with one another to show the love, honor and respectful regard that God desires from each of us toward each other.

With Valentine’s Day mid-month, love is a really good and godly focus.
“Love one another with brotherly affection (as members of one family), giving preference and showing honor to one another.” (Romans 12:10 AMP)

Since God is Our Father, He does not like when we dis any of the children in His Family. Something to think about with your family and all of God’s Children!

Happy Valentine’s Day,
Ron and Phyllis


What Does Christmas Really Look Like?

adore him

As the Christmas season approaches we begin to see images of mangers, wise men, and shepherds.  We might have a vision in our head of snow on the ground and begin to think about Christmas’ past.  We watch little children with a twinkle in their eyes anticipating the perfect gift.  People are making travel plans to be with loved ones, menus are discussed, and the stores are full of shoppers.  The pace of the final days till Christmas begins to get frantic. What does Christmas really look like?  We find this in Luke chapter 2.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2: 8-12

Every December we await Christmas as we remember the coming of the baby Jesus into this world.  The angel didn’t alert the wealthy or the noble but appeared to the shepherds out in the fields.  The shepherd’s life was an onerous one of a subordinate position. The shepherd endured hardship, and even danger. He was exposed to the extremes of heat and cold, his food frequently consisted of what he could find in the field.

The Christmas holidays don’t always go as planned.  I’m reminded of a story about a middle-class family that wanted to have their best Christmas ever.  Each of the three children had their own ideas of a great Christmas.  The oldest daughter had plans to spend Christmas Eve with her boyfriend while the youngest daughter wanted a big tree with lots of presents – all for her no doubt.  The middle son didn’t want any part of Christmas.   The wife generously bought presents for people they rarely communicated with and planned to deliver them on Christmas Eve.

As the story goes the dad got off work early on Christmas Eve and wanted to take the family up into the mountains to cut a tree just like his family did long ago.  Of course the children protested vigorously because they had important plans but the dad won out and off they go.  They keep driving higher up the mountain and the dad keeps telling them the perfect tree is just around the next bend but it begins to snow.  The dad kept saying we are almost there but it really was a little beyond what he remembered.    The mountain snow was coming down so fast they had to stop the car and now the roads were so slick with ice it was not safe to travel.  Stranded and no one else around plus no way to call for help.   The family could see a cabin off into the distance so they made their way to check it out.  They discovered this was a summer cabin for hikers but there was still food and supplies in the cabinets.  They were safe but not exactly the Christmas Eve everyone wanted.   After a lot of angry talk and unhappy faces the dad told the son that they could go out and at least get a tree.   To warm the cabin the mom started a fire in the fire place and began to warm some soup.  The girls found some old magazines and tore the pages into strips to make a paper chain to decorate the tree.

After the tree was up and decorated and they finished their meal the mom asked everyone to recall one of their favorite Christmas memories.   Everyone had a favorite time to share and after a while mom begin to read the Christmas story from the Bible.  The family rarely worshiped together and certainly never outside of church.  The mother read Luke 2:1-20.  In part:

 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 

The family began to sing Silent Night.

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

By some measures this family experienced a pretty special Christmas.  Time to talk not interrupted by technology or with personal agendas.  God puts us in special places at special times.  What will your Christmas look like this year?

Merry Christmas,

Ron Fontenot



On Sunday, August 23, fifteen teams from OFFUMC gathered to take part in an Amazing Race. Modeled after the popular TV show, some challenges focused on fun, friendly competition.  In pure silliness, groups of friends and family shook off winter clothes, raced through obstacle courses, jousted Youth Minister Brad Lewis, and cannonballed into swimming pools.  While laughs were shared and bonds strengthened through these antics, certain aspects of the day held deeper meaning.

Keeping with the theme of “Thinking Orange,” many activities called teams to use their love of Christ and of one another to spread God’s light to the community.   With this outreach in mind, teams collected canned goods for the food bank, paid it forward by buying drinks and meals, and delivered flowers to passers-by.  Participants of all ages lent helping hands to neighbors by walking dogs and doing yardwork.  Lives were touched as representatives of Christ bought bus fare, donated coins at the laundromat, and pumped gas for those they had never met.   Teams even invited strangers to share in words of prayer.  With each act of kindness, a small card delivered a message wishing that the recipient would “feel God’s love today.”  In total, approximately 250 gestures of love were shared on the streets of O’Fallon.  At the end of the day, teams gathered back at OFFUMC to share stories and a meal, bodies tired and hot, but spirits filled by God’s amazinGRACE.


Stacy Robinson




Human kind seems to be hard-wired for family, significant relationships and for God.  People on this earth today have experienced more technological change than in all the previous history of the planet.  Traditional roles and institutions have changed.  Society is constantly moving, norms shifting, and values continually challenged.  Communication with nearly the whole world is instant.  As the culture around us flexes and moves people in North America have challenged and are abandoning the Church.  Significant, face to face relationships, are declining as those born since 1980 are spending an average of 6.5 hours a day on Face Book and other social media.  People, especially younger families, face challenges and pressures on their time as never before yet, they are clinging to the family.

Jesus went to the people and talked about things that related to their everyday life.  Paul adapted to the Athenians (Acts 17) when he was in Athens and used their form of dialogue and debate to introduce them to Jesus.  Paul said he would be all things to all people in order to reach some.  John Wesley went to the streets.  The Methodist circuit riders went to the people in the far reaches of the western wilderness of North America and embedded themselves in the culture.  Only then could they share Christ effectively.

If we are going to share Christ in the culture in which we live we have to be culturally relevant and offer people need something they need.  Of course that is Jesus but it begins with relationships and unconditional love. .

The average Christian kid who grows up in the Church has about 40 hours a year of impact from the Church.  They have about 3000 hours of impact from the family in the same time period.  Orange is the combination of God’s love for the family as represented by red and God’s light in the world as represented by yellow. Together they are orange.  It only makes since to go where the people are and scratch where they itch.  ORANGE IS NOT A PROGRAM – IT IS A STRATEGY FOR DOING CHURCH that makes sense in our world today!  It is doing Church inside and outside of the building with the emphasis on family, close person to person relationships and most of all God.

I was impressed with this strategy 8 years ago when I was able to speak with some of the Leaders of North Point Church in Atlanta Ga. where it started.  I had hoped this church would someday inculcate the orange strategy into its DNA.  Today is the time and now is the moment for metabolic transformation!

The Orange Conference was great and inspiring but most inspiring is to see the staff pulling together in the same direction.  Staff all had independent areas and focused on them.  Staff was supportive of each other but now all the staff is playing on the same field.  There is a closeness and energy in the staff that I have not known in my 10 years here.  It is an exciting time.  We are seeing this same “team spirit” permeating this church.  Orange is a strategy and a focus on connecting with each other to join with what God is doing in our world, community and church.  It is a strategy for reaching and changing lives inside and outside this congregation.  Jump on, Hang on and enjoy the ride!


Pastor Joel