Tag Archives: The Furnace

Signs of (New) Life: Amidst changes, God’s work is evident

As people talk and blog about what’s happened the last nine months at New Life Church, plenty of conflicting opinions and speculations can be heard. How long will Colorado Springs be known by this scandal? Can believers really move on? I grieved deeply over what unfolded last November at my home church. Yet many mile markers along this journey, small things showing a higher power at work, have given me hope.

One such signpost was Tuesday, October 31 last year. That’s Halloween normally, but at New Life it’s “Hallelujah Night”… similar festivities of costumes and games, only to celebrate light rather than darkness. Thousands of families from across the Springs came to hang out with other folks in a fun, safe environment. The sanctuary was filled not with chairs or anything except inflatable bounce houses, face painting, beanbag throws—a total carnival atmosphere. Hundreds of church volunteers were having a great time; I was stationed at a basketball goal as kids lined up, threw the ball up with great effort… and usually missed the hoop when their turn came. No matter. There were still plenty of laughs and blow pops to go around.

Hallelujah Night footage begins about 2 minutes into this video

Leaving the church that night, I thought how great it is being part of a community where believers get together to serve. In the process of caring for another person, you always get back more than you give—a message that many area churches live and believe. It was a moment to remember, for soon things would be very different.

During the first days of November, few New Lifers believed the news stories until six words hit us like a ton of bricks: “Some of the allegations are true.” Next thing you know, ten satellite trucks were camped out at the church and headlines were screaming from every direction. By Sunday, clearly an era had ended.

So much talk, so many tears that week. 20-something friends of mine flocked to MySpace, where I’ve never seen such profound thoughts–before or since. One friend wrote in a bulletin, “Love people. Hate anything that hurts them. Hate anything that leads them away from truth. But don’t hate the person.” It was a message from God’s heart (to think the Sustainer of All Things has time for MySpace.)


Another encouragement for many has been the worship album My Savior Lives, released just weeks after the scandal unfolded. Though recorded over a year ago by the New Life Worship team, suddenly the lyrics have taken on new meaning: “One thing I know that I have found / Through all the troubles that surround / You are the Rock that never fails / You never fail.”

It’s been nine months since November, and I still don’t know how this process will shake out. All we can do is listen well and participate in searching out the truth. Local churches and beyond have shown they care what happens; many have been helping in prayers and other means. What I do know is I’m thankful to those who’ve given so freely and deeply during this season.

For a few months, New Life Church was doing 6am prayer meetings to seek God’s will. I attended just a handful of them and every time Pastor Ross Parsley was there—dressed down a bit from Sunday, but still ready to share from God’s Word. That spoke volumes. Many other local and national folks have sacrificed; for instance, before he even spoke at the church, attempts have been made to taint Pastor Brady Boyd’s name. If the only lesson (and there’ve been many) from these past months is to go the extra mile caring for those around us, it’s worth it.

click to play video of Pastor Brady Boyd’s first Sunday at New Life

I was jogging the other day in Ute Valley Park. Like most trails around here, the terrain is very up-and-down with easy descents and what seem like long stretches going up. My pace usually follows the elevation appropriately: a slow walk uphill, followed by a brisk run down (go ahead and laugh, personal trainers; not the best form, I’ll bet.)

Unconsciously, my pattern began to change at certain points. When my line-of-sight caught someone ahead or behind me, I sped up. Even if it was the hardest part of the trail, people watching—or even a perception of such—altered my performance for the better.

The world is watching Christian believers. Perhaps the added attention, an accountability of sorts, can inspire us to live more for others than self.

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Remembering Derek, a man of God

Derek Buehrer was a party waiting to happen. He was the first to burst out laughing in our team meetings, the first to shout in prayer, and always the one to initiate a greeting hug.

I’ve been Derek’s team leader in theFurnace since January when he joined… which gives me a unique window into what a willing, determined and generous man he was.

Willing
His willingness can be seen in the way he came into theFurnace. Those of us in this collegiate house of prayer are well aware of the 1st Semester Rule: no dating for your first semester, which is defined pretty strictly (long distance relationships included, etc.)

Well, Derek had a stronger boundary put in place—he couldn’t talk to a girl alone for the whole semester, past about 2 minutes. This would be a challenge for any guy, but Derek proved he was up to it. He updated us every week on his interactions, which often went like, “There was this woman at work I was in this meeting with…” “Derek, bro, it’s OK – we know you need to at work.” “Just wanted to be sure.” He learned discipline from this experience, and showed without a doubt he was willing.

Determined

It was our last team meeting of the spring, and I decided we’d hike the Incline. The other two guys in our team (Steven and Jonathan) had no trouble with the uphill climb – these two track/climbing guys could conquer Pikes Peak over lunch break. But Derek and I had to push through it. He’s always been eager, and started out going real fast.

In my experience, the Incline is best hiked slow and steady—start slow while it’s easy, then when it gets hard your body has to kick in to 3rd gear to hold that pace. I told Derek as much, but he kept a furious gait. Until he stopped for breath. Soon we were in step with each other, and encouraging one another towards the top. He determined to ascend that hill, and did so. Many of us need that zeal in our spiritual walk.

Generous
The biggest thing all of us have to give is our time, and Derek’s hours were spent giving to God and giving to others. He showed me a grid of his schedule just a week before the Lord took him. I think it was 5:30-7:30 every morning penciled in as God Time… except on Wednesday when he met with a UCCS Navigators guy to pray and tell him about God’s ways.

Then there was Monday nights leading with Healing Streams, Sunday mornings serving with the church bus ministry, and meeting with a men’s group Tuesday nights (apart from his Furnace commitment). Derek often went over and above his Furnace requirements as far as prayer meetings go.

Derek wasn’t perfect—he was stubborn, not always timely, and was working on life responsibilities. But I love the guy, and I’m a better man for having known him. We know without a doubt Derek is in a better place, worshipping his Father with complete joy, free from the difficulties of the flesh.

I thank God for Derek’s outgoing, bright, spontaneous, thoughtful, theologically-minded, party-animal personality. And I pray He works some of those things in me.

Furnace Acct Team - Spring 2006

(clockwise from bottom left): Derek, Steven, Jonathan, Josh

How I Became Andrew the Disciple (9 Weeks of Passion, Pt. 1)

The first meeting was Sunday afternoon, February 12. The wrap party ended late Saturday night, April 15. During those nine weeks, friendships were formed, 200 or so team members gave what they had and—by God’s hand—over 3,100 lives were changed. To produce The Crown, the story of Jesus’ life through the eyes of a child, each person had to bring passion to their role. And as we experienced over and again the key events that define Christianity, The Crown stoked our passion and faith.

In early February, Pastor Bill Walton of New Life Kids was thinking through the church’s upcoming “Thorn season” where New Life would have an audience of 50,000 for its extravagantly produced passion play. Yet he saw an audience missing in the strategy: 1st thru 5th graders, who were too young for The Thorn’s sometimes-violent images. He began to dream big about a kids’ play.


As Pastor Bill had a few members of The Furnace on his team already, he soon called our leader David about a partnership. Days later David announced at the Furnace gathering that The Crown would count as part of our prayer meeting commitment – and I was in (not that I’d had too much prayer… this just sounded like an opportunity God would use to answer some of those prayers.)


The first part of rehearsals actually resembled Furnace meetings: music playing, corporate prayers to God led on the mic, worshipers pacing (which looked a little funny once we got costumes: scary demons lifting their hands, Pharisees praying over the chairs where the audience would be watching.) Everyone connected to The Crown hit it off right away, especially within the teams.


For instance: on Sunday nights, we 12 disciples had less than an hour to eat between rehearsals and the evening service (a Furnace requirement, and all but two of us are Furnace guys—we’re working on them.) Thus, if you were in the parking lot those days, you would notice two packed cars racing to Fazoli’s or Chipotle – and racing back. I won once.

There was the costumes team, who impressed with how quickly they could get everyone’s measurements without stopping the flow of rehearsals, then have finely-stitched robes ready within hours. The three lead actors had to continually adjust to script changes that came a lot that first month. Some of the hardest work fell to Jordan and the team directors: creating scenes from scratch for a production in its first year, which they spent every minute doing.

Lives Changed… and a Trip to the Hospital (9 Weeks of Passion, Pt. 3)

Dress rehearsals started to be all the rage (I guess that’s how it normally is with plays right before they go live.) We guys never seemed to have time to carry our costumes down to the men’s room everyday and put them on. Surveying the sight of female angels trying to avoid seeing the guys next to them in boxers, I noted, “What a progressive church we are, with our co-ed dressing rooms.”

The excitement was high once performances began—hundreds of kids were packing the place! Around The Thorn, it’s normally a circus (there were even tigers this year in the main play), but The Crown certainly increased the carnival atmosphere. We Crown cast members who mingled in the foyer beforehand could heckle not only our fellow centurions (“one day we’ll be free from the Romans!”) and Pharisees (“the Messiah is among us, you must believe!”) – but also The Thorn’s Sadducees, Governor Pilate and soldiers as they walked by. As a disciple of John the Baptist, I assisted Jonathan as he “baptized” passers-by in the water fountain.


One aspect of performances we learned on-the-job was the post-show interaction with the kids. This was mostly run by the Security/usher/”kid control” team, who worked overtime to connect with the young audience, keep them focused and not lose anyone. We did autographs for awhile (John has been teased for signing “Jesus” on kids’ Bibles), but we quickly went to group games. Red Rover was outlawed – yes, actually crossed off the ushers’ recommended games list – after some roughhousing during the first weekend.


Without confirming or denying the role of any Furnace guys, it is known that the main boy star actually went to the hospital after an unnecessarily competitive round. He recovered and we all learned a lesson: “Red rover, Red rover, don’t let centurions come over.” Duck-Duck Goose and Simon Peter Says went much better.

The nine showings flew by—except perhaps for April 15’s three-in-a-day marathon, which went mostly without incident. However, in one bit that wasn’t staged, a young member of Satan’s forces got punched in the face. Now I’m sure all the angels and demons could tell you about a few bruises they got during their choreographed fights. When their sword and bowstaff skills were combined with the elegant costumes, and the strobe lighting illuminated the scene along with sound effects, music, and spotlights, it really looked cool.


At any rate… during the Pilate scene, many of us changed wardrobe and joined the mob. With clenched fists, we shouted, “Crucify Him!” as the Pharisees and (in the unseen realm) demons egged us on. I wasn’t watching closely and socked a young demon right on his cheek! It must’ve hurt, but he kept going like a trooper.


There are many small moments I’ll remember: Peter and I trying to impress the angels by doing some of their ballet moves, the Pharisees joking about the disciples’ “supper club,” hearing kids in the audience gasp as Jesus made the blind man see… and most of all, our prayer times backstage.  Just after Jesus carried the cross, Pastor Bill would come up to explain what Christ’s death meant for each of us. Meanwhile, small groups would huddle up backstage and pray for the Holy Spirit to speak to each person in the audience.



“Lord, we ask that these seeds planted in the kids’ hearts would grow a thirty, sixty, even a hundredfold harvest,” we prayed quoting Matthew 13:23. The prayer focus was a little different each time—an intercession team from the church joined us a couple nights—and we really believed God was working. Pastor Bill confirmed this in a big way when he said that every time he walked out to give his talk, he strongly felt God’s presence and his words came without effort. He recounted seeing a dad in the audience, tears in his eyes, raise his hand to receive salvation.


Over 3,100 children and parents who saw The Crown made that life-changing decision. Even if it was 1 person, those nine weeks of make-up, scriptwriting, set-building, dancing, demon-battling, soldier-marching and hours of A/V work would be worth it. “Worship only the LORD,” says Exodus 34:14. “For he is a God who is passionate about his relationship with you.” His passion continues to fuel ours, and that makes all the difference.