Author Archive

Spiritual Formation

Lessons from Eat, Pray, Love

I recently read Eat, Pray, Love. First, let me say if you have seen the movie, know that it doesn’t come close to describing the intensity with which Elizabeth Gilbert goes after God, peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness in her spirit. I have often marveled that one of the great evidences of the reality of God’s presence in the world is the revelation of truth he makes available to the Christian and the non-Christian alike.

I do not think Gilbert would label herself a Christian (other than perhaps that she comes from a “Christian” nation). She practices yoga and eastern meditation.

In our ministry, my husband and I have done a lot of transformative renewal work with individuals based on the truth that our battles are first and foremost in the mind. It’s not enough to just know the truth; we have to also align our thoughts with those truths: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (NIV 2 Cor 10:6).

One of the turning points in Gilbert’s spiritual life is when a co-participant at an Ashram in India tells her, “You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control” (Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love).

Even though Gilbert does not write from a Christian perspective, she well captures what it means to wrestle with the spiritual self. As we live in an emergent era, we would all do well to gain some insight into spiritual self battles from perspectives other than our own heritage.

~Lisa G. Yoder

Community, Missional

Light the Night: Another Message


Light the Night is a way to impact your community on the night of trick-or-treating with the message that Jesus is the light and that the light overcomes darkness.

We’ve done it for years now in different communities and have found it to be the single most attended event by the community hands down. Where we might get 2 to 20 people from the community to attend an on-site dinner, concert, VBS, or children’s event, we connected with 400 to 500 people through Light the Night last year.

The idea is to have one or more homes in the community host the event. It is critical that you do not have it on church property.

You put up a welcoming banner (preferably the same one is used by all the homes hosting no matter what church affiliation) and literally flood the home with light – bank lights, spot lights, Christmas light, every light object you can gather – and invite people on a night dedicated to evil and darkness to experience the light.

You have games (with candy or tickets for prizes), puppet shows (giving the message of the night), free food (cotton candy, hot dogs, popcorn, etc.), music, drawings, and gift bags with information about who is hosting the event.

The two great things for our churches have been that it is something that can pull in every person in the congregation to help with and that it meets people where they live – literally. We saw a lot of community building as parents stood around visiting with neighbors they may have never spoken to before while the kids ran around playing games. It has not been unusual to see parents literally dragging kids away to “finish trick-or-treating” only to return a few minutes later because kids knew a good thing when they saw it!

For ours, we put people into ministry teams: set up and tear down service team, evangelism team (they handed out the gift bags and were charged with simply talking to parents), intercession team (who prayed over the neighborhood and event site), administration/children’s team (who ran the games), administration/planning team and food service team.

A church in State College, PA, started Light the Night seven or eight years ago. The vision for it is to get all the churches in your community doing it to have the greatest impact. It’s one thing to know people go to church, it’s another to see home after home in your city proclaiming the message of Jesus.

Lisa G. Yoder & Gary D. Yoder
Grandview Church of the Brethren
S/C Indiana District

Community, Worship

2/3 Service: Three Elements – Two Styles – One Service


We are now about 6 months into doing a 2/3 service at Grandview Church in S/C IN District. Our 2/3 service is our solution to several problem areas we see across the country in most small churches: inability to come together to name one missional focus, power-struggles over worship style, and having a worship place to invite new people into joining.

Thus, we’ve gone from blended to what we are calling a 2/3 service. One service is split into three parts and incorporates two distinct worship styles. The first part is strictly traditional worship (hymns, responsive reading, offering, etc.). The second part is for church family events (like baptism, baby dedication, VBS presentation) and sermon. The final third is strictly contemporary worship (IWorship, worship team, flags, children with ribbons and instruments, etc.).

If you want to attend a traditional worship service, you only stay for the first two-thirds. If you want to attend a contemporary worship service, you come for the last two-thirds. Yet, everyone in the church is together for the same sermon at the same time.

The traditional people feel like they have a stable service they can count on and like. The contemporary attendees are much more free than they were in the blended service; they don’t feel now like if they act like they enjoy the praise and worship they are offending someone else in the congregation who does not.

Our children are released from childcare for the third-third to worship with parents. On about week 3 or 4, parents suddenly realized they could relax – it didn’t matter if the baby toddled across the row – no one noticed in the more casual atmosphere. Children didn’t have to sit stone still – they could grab a sand shaker or ribbon and actively worship. It was great to watch this realization come over the parents. We are considering renaming this section “family worship” as we don’t feel “contemporary” is a good tag anyway.

What do we do for transition you are probably wondering (that’s always the first question). We have brought back the Brethren greeting time. As people enter who are coming at the start of the second third (because they want a contemporary worship experience), we break with a countdown video. Everyone greets one another and then settles back in together. At the end of the second third (after the sermon) we have a prayer ministry time in which those who are leaving can exit and children come in – we start in with an IWorship song to give the praise team time to gather and get things going again. We’ve just started trying a countdown video during this second transition as well.

The number one thing we hope to accomplish with this style is to be able to set aside the traditional versus contemporary underlying tensions long enough to come together over ministry focus. Some leadership have misunderstood and thought the two-thirds service was going to cause dramatic church growth alone (which it has not – though a number of people who left the congregation because of the blended worship have returned to attend the traditional service, and we have some families more engaged now that we have the contemporary worship). We are now concentrating on getting leadership to identify and go with one God-given ministry focus. We are also launching ministry teams this summer with a full launch this fall (but that’s another post).

We are happy to answer questions about how we make the transitions work, what impact it has had on the children’s department (our greatest care was placed here going in), how we resource it with both people and ministry resources, etc.

Pastors Lisa G. Yoder & Gary D. Yoder
Grandview Church of the Brethren
S/C Indiana District


New 2/3 Service Idea

Greetings from South Central Indiana! Jeff asked me to share about a new service concept we’ve developed and are finally launching November 4, 2007, here at Grandview COB.

We’ve observed that with a blended service format, no one ever is very happy, yet congregations strongly resist two services for various reasons. We believe God has given us an inspired solution and are interested in connecting with others who may be on the same path.

Basically, the first third of the service is strictly traditional worship with responsive reading, hymns, etc. The second third is the sermon. The third third is the contemporary worship elements. Thus, those wanting a traditional service format attend the first 2/3 of the service. Those wanting a contemporary service format attend the second 2/3 of the service. Everyone is gathered together for the sermon, so they still feel like one body. We will have a transition with a count-down video and greeting one another before the sermon section. We will transition after the sermon with ministry time and some transitional songs/videos before moving into contemporary praise time. Anyone can stay for the whole service as well.

Children’s Sunday School and Children’s Church are moving into a format of 1/2 hour blocks so children can arrive or leave at transitional times. Adult Sunday School coordinates with the traditional 2/3. Weeknight small group meetings are offered for those attending the contemporary 2/3.

Offerings during both first and third worship times (finance loves us for this!). Church family events like baptism or baby dedication will take place during the middle sermon third.

We’re basically a traditional congregation that needs to grow. We’re very excited about the possibilities. We’re convinced God hasn’t given this idea to just us though, and would love to hear from others who may be doing something similar.


Lisa G. Yoder

Leadership, Ministry Formation

Looking for a few good pastors

As our churches are making fewer disciples and seeing further decline congregationally, we’re very interested in the question of how to revitalize the Church in the Emergent Era. While this means incorporating emergent elements into our services, it is much more than that. It’s understanding what God is about during the greatest cultural shift in the past 500 years. It’s about understanding the significant changes in worldview. It’s about cooperating with what God is doing in this place and this time.

We’re looking for a few good pastors who want to study the issue of church revitalization in the Emergent Era through the Brethren Academy Lilly Grant for Sustaining Pastoral Excellence. We’re putting together a distance group (you can live anywhere) for Vital Pastors in the next month or so. The group launches with an emersion trip (probably to the United Kingdom) and meets for two years. Everything is paid for through the grant.

If you are interested, please reply here or email us at

Gary & Lisa Yoder
South Central Indiana District