Free at Last!

If we are to be a people who indeed live free, it will involve a change of attitude in how we approach life; it will involve making the shift from an attitude of “scarcity” to one of “abundance”. The problem with living life bound by an attitude of “scarcity” is that it shackles our perspective on all of life. Thus, we are imprisoned by fear; bound by fear, trust deteriorates; lack of trust diminishes our ability to step out in faith and embrace God’s blessings.

On the other hand, when we are able to see and claim that we are a people of “abundance” we find “freedom”! Thus, we live by faith not fear; faith and hope go together, and we possess a hope that, as Paul proclaims: “will not disappoint us”; and free to trust in God’s promises, an attitude of “abundance” moves us to invest in God’s kingdom: Loving God, and those God loves!

Commitment Sunday on October 26 was a day of celebration. Celebrating who we are: Beloved children of God, we committed ourselves to helping others embrace a new identity as a beloved child of God as well!

To date we have received 229 commitments, which represents an increase in average commitment, from 2013, of about 35%. The people of God have spoken. No longer will we live imprisoned by a mentality of “scarcity”, but in Jesus Christ, we are a people of “abundance”!

Thank you to all who have made a commitment to the vision, mission, ministry, and outreach of Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church. You’ve chosen to invest in changed lives and transformed communities. The dividend is priceless!

If you have not yet made a financial commitment, I encourage you to join those who call Hyde Park Community home: Invest in her vision, mission, ministry, and outreach!

God is “doing a new thing” at Hyde Park Community, “don’t you perceive it?” I look forward to serving in ministry with you in the months and years ahead. Together, Loving God, and those God loves, we are free at last to live a life of abundance. See you in church!

In Christ,

In Christ We Find Freedom

Jesus tells the woman, whose sins are many: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Underlying the woman’s boldness is trust. Trust that God, in Christ, is who God says God is, and will do what God says God will do!

The tithe became an essential part of worship for the Covenant people, Israel. Tithing is an issue of “Trust”. A “tithe” means “a tenth part” of the first fruits of one’s labor. Jesus talked about money in 16 out of 38 parables. The Bible devotes 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 verses on faith, but over 2,000 verses on money and possessions.

Tithing is not an issue of money. It is an issue of trust. God knows that the most difficult area for us to turn over to God is our finances. Therefore, God says: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse (the church), so that there may be food in My house, and test me now in this, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open up for you the window of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. (Malachi 3:10) God said it – Can I trust God to fulfill God’s promise? More importantly, can God trust in me?

We invite you to prayerfully consider how you will support the Mission and Ministry of Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church through your financial resources. We invite you to join us in committing the “tithe” (10% of your income). If you are unable to commit to the tithe, we encourage you to take a percentage step towards tithing in your giving. Pray for God to guide your decision to invest sacrificially in the ministry of Jesus Christ at Hyde Park Community; we are praying with you!

In Christ,
Pastors Cathy and Doug Johns

Free At Last

There is much in life that we allow to imprison us; which in turn keeps us from fully experiencing the life God intends for us. Our attitudes, outlook, and our finances can imprison our spirit, and limit our joy.

This Sunday we begin a new sermon series: Free At Last! The series will help us understand that we serve a God of abundance not scarcity. Trusting God to be faithful to God’s promises, we are free to invest in life transforming ministries, offering freedom in the name of Christ Jesus to others who find themselves imprisoned. Trusting God to be faithful we are free to embrace God’s blessings, share God’s blessings, and in return receive God’s blessings!

The Rev. Rudy Rasmus, pastor, author, and global humanitarian will be with us to kick off our sermon series: Free At Last (9:30 and 11:00 at the Grace Campus; 5:00 p.m. at the Nast Downtown Campus). Pastor Cathy will kick off the sermon series at the 8:00 Grace Campus service, and the 9:30 Nast Downtown Campus.

Pastor Rudy has led St. John’s United Methodist Church with his wife, Juanita, for more than twenty years. St. John’s has grown to over 9,000-members (3,000 of whom are, or were, homeless at one time) and is one of the most culturally diverse congregations in the country. Pastor Rudy attributes the success of the church to a compassionate congregation, which has embraced the vision of tearing down walls of classism, sexism, and racism, and replacing them with unconditional love and acceptance. Rudy and Juanita are the proud parents of two daughters. Pastor Rudy’s most recent book is Love Period. God’s love, without condition, sets us free. It’s in loving others as we have been loved that we experience the fullness of our freedom!

We look forward to seeing you in worship. Invite a friend, relative, acquaintance, or neighbor to join you in worship as we reclaim our freedom in Christ Jesus!

In Christ,
Pastor Doug

Stay in Love With God

Bishop Rueben Job wrote a book, “Three Simple Rules”, based on the teachings of John Wesley (father of Methodism): Do no harm, Do good, Stay in love with God.

The “Three Simple Rules” are discipleship pathways based on the teachings of Jesus. In Luke’s account of Jesus’ teaching on judging others (Luke 6:37-42), we see with new eyes, and hear with new ears, what it means to “stay in love with God.”

Judgment, we have convinced ourselves, is a way for us to gain superior moral footing. However, in reality, it is a way to marginalize those unlike us, and disenfranchise others based on stereotypes, accusation, rumors, and perception. Consequently, we all judge others, but yet we dislike being judged.

If we’re to “stay in love with God” we will embrace God’s call to love as we’ve been loved. Bishop Job writes:
“The question Jesus asked of Peter in John 21:15ff, “Do you love me?”reveals a great deal about the essentials of our relationship with God. Three times Jesus asked, “Do you love me?” and three times Peter answered in the affirmative. Staying in love with God was the primary issue of a faithful life then, and it is today. For from such a life of love for God will flow the goodness and love of God to the world.” (p.57)

Practicing Radical Hospitality moves me away from a life of exclusion to a life of embracing. Embracing the stranger, the disenfranchised, the marginalized, the lonely, and the vulnerable in our midst, is the way of love; and a way of “staying in love with God”! In love with God, there’s no room for judgmentalism and condemnation.

I look forward to seeing you in church as we strive to stay in love with God by embracing God’s call to radical hospitality! Invite a friend, relative, acquaintance, or neighbor to join you!

In Christ,

Welcoming the Other

Over the course of my ministry I’ve had the opportunity to visit a lot of churches, and have been involved in numerous conversations with regard to the identity and character of a particular faith community.  Inevitably I would hear: “we are a friendly church”  or, “we are an inviting and welcoming church”, only to find out through a visit on Sunday morning: welcoming, inviting, and friendly to those they know, yes.  Welcoming, inviting, and friendly to the stranger in their midst, well, not so much!

Radical Hospitality, the kind of hospitality God calls us to, is a hospitality that goes beyond just being, nice.  As followers of Christ radical hospitality is extended through our actions: “If you’ve done it to the least of these brothers and sisters, you’ve done it to me” (Matthew 25:40); and in our prayers: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).  Radical Hospitality involves embracing diversity – the kind of diversity we learned through song as a child:  Red and yellow black and white all are precious in His sight; Jesus loves the little children of the world!  As followers of Christ we are to, as St. Benedict puts it: “Welcome the other”!

The question we should always be asking ourselves (individually and as a community of faith) is are we are practicing the hospitality of Jesus?  Answering this question starts by embracing our diversity.  Father Daniel Homan and Lonni Collins Pratt in their book, Radical Hospitality: Benedict’s Way of Love, write:

“The hardest thing about all these people is their absolute otherliness, which cannot be tamed or ignored.  They are going to remain unlike us.  We are not going to understand them.  We should celebrate this.  We need them to be different from us.  It fits in the way the universe has been designed.” (p.85)

Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church is a diverse community of faith; and God is calling us to widen our circle further.  I look forward to serving in ministry with you as we partner with God to bring His “kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven”.  See you in church!

In Christ,


Can’t or Won’t?

Hope is essential to a healthy life. Hope is the light at the end of the tunnel. Hope is the breaking of the morning dawn dispelling the dark of night. Hope is the fuel that powers us through difficult times. Hope sustains when there is very little to hang on to.

However, one of the great enemies of hope is a small but destructive word: “Can’t”; one small but destructive phrase: “I can not”! Chuck Swindoll in his book: “Wisdom For The Way” writes: “Can’t and won’t. Christians need to be very careful which one they choose. It seems that we prefer to use “can’t.”

“I just can’t get along with my wife.”
“My husband and I can’t communicate.”
“I just can’t discipline the kids as I should.”
“I just can’t give up the affair I’m having.”
“I can’t stop overeating.”
“I can’t find time to pray.”

Any Christian who takes the Bible seriously will have to agree the word here really should be “won’t”. Why? Because we have been given the power, the ability to overcome. . . . We’re really saying “I won’t,” because we don’t choose to say “With the help of God, I will!” (p.21)

The Psalmist helps us remember that God is a God of new life, and new beginnings. Paul reminds us: all things are possible in Christ Jesus; and, hope will not disappoint us. Indeed, one of the strands that hold the Bible together from Genesis to Revelation is Hope.

The writers of the Psalms encourage us to embrace the hope that is ours in our God. The Psalmist proclaims that God: “Turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” (Ps 30:11)  Embracing hope, God renews and re-orients life! May God’s blessings abound as we allow ourselves to be filled by the Holy Spirit, filled with hope!
In Christ,


Where’ s God When It Hurts

The Psalmists wrote often of their disappointment in God in the midst of their struggles, discouragement, and suffering. Some write with out-right anger and hostility that God would “forget” them. Others write about the anguish in trying to find their way in a world where God seems absent; and so it is in the 21st century.

We encounter our own struggles, agony, pain, and suffering in life; and like our brothers and sisters of ancient Israel we ask: “Where’s God?” Philip Yancey in his book, “Where is God When it Hurts?” writes:

“Much of the suffering on our planet has come about because of two principles that God built into creation: a physical world that runs according to consistent natural laws, and human freedom. . . . Where is God when it hurts? He is in us – not in the things that hurt – helping to transform bad into good. We can safely say that God can bring good out of evil; we cannot say that God brings about the evil in hopes of producing good.” (p.65 and 111)

God is not a God who brings suffering our way as some cosmic test of faith and obedience, nor is God a God who delights in our suffering, waiting for God’s children to cry out for help. Where’s God when it Hurts? God is present, actively seeking ways to help turn our attention to God, seek God’s strength, and live in God’s hope; as Paul puts it, “hope will not disappoint us.” Jesus puts it this way: “ Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” (John 9:3)

Where’s God when it hurts? God is present in the community of faith that reaches out to bring healing and hope to the broken, disenfranchised, and distressed. Philip Yancey writes, “I believe God has given the church a mandate of representing his love to a suffering world. We usually think of the problem of pain as a question we ask of God, but it is also a question He asks of us. How do we respond to hurting people?” (p.10) As the community of faith partners with God we participate with God in healing a broken world.

I look forward to the days (years) ahead, sharing in ministry with you, as together we partner with God to bring healing and wholeness where pain and suffering overwhelm and distort the lives of God’s children!

In Christ,

How Does This Work?

A core value of Cathy’s and mine is communication and transparency.  One of the questions we have been asked more than once is how does the Co-Senior Pastor model work?  What follows is my attempt at a broad stroke overview.

Preaching:  As a rule Cathy and I will rotate preaching between the Grace Campus, and the Downtown Campus (every other week).   In this time of defining what it means to be One Church – Two Campuses, we believe it a priority for the Senior Pastors to be visible, in the pulpit, in both places.

Responsibilities:   Cathy and I will bring Senior Pastor Leadership according to the areas of our giftedness.  For example:

Servant Leadership Board (SLB)– Both Cathy and I will bring leadership and work with the Executive Team (Chair, Vice Chair, and Director of Administration) on meeting agenda and schedule.  With regard to the specific teams on the SLB, Senior Pastor leadership will be as follows:

Leadership Development: Cathy
Communication Team: Doug
Visioning Team: Cathy
Personnel Team: Cathy and Doug
Audit Team: Doug
Property Team: Doug
Finance Team: Doug

Equipping Team – Cathy and I will lead, and supervise, the following areas/individuals:
Doug: Director of Administration, and the Director of Communication
Cathy: Director of Education, and the Director of Congregational Care

Additional Areas of oversight:
Doug: Community Ministry and Global Outreach
Cathy: Staff Development, Worship, And New Member Assimilation

This is the “big picture” view, please let either Cathy or I know if you have any questions.  We are excited to be a part of the family called Hyde Park Community, and we look forward to serving in ministry with you!

In Christ,


24/7 JOY

Joy versus Happiness . . .

In today’s world we’ve come to confuse happiness and joy, and we need to be continually reminded that there is a difference.  I’ve come to appreciate and embrace the following distinction:  Happiness is dependent upon external things; Joy is internal.

My “happiness” is dependent on my circumstances. How “happy” I am is dependent on what I am experiencing in my life.  Thus, my external encounters shape, and form, my happiness.

My Joy in life comes from within; is present in spite of what is externally happening to me.  My Joy is a condition of my heart, and reflection of my soul, which is why the Psalmist proclaims: “Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”  (Ps. 51:10)!  Joy is a gift of God, which allows us to live above our circumstances and not under them.  That’s why Nehemiah proclaims: “Do not grieve, for thejoyoftheLord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10b)

Consequently, my joy is not dependent on my happiness, but the depth of my joy can alter the level of my happiness.  That’s why John Wesley (founding father of Methodism) can write:

“The sons and daughters of God are able in a sense to laugh at violence when it comes – to laugh at economic hardship, pain, hell, and the grave.  For they are already acquainted with the One who finally holds the keys of Death and Death’s domain.” (John Wesley’s Little Instruction Book, p.107)

We are beginning a six-week sermon series based on Paul’s letter to the Philippians, “24/7 Joy”.  Philippians has come to be known as “The Book of Joy”, because despite the hardships, disappointments, and discouragement Paul and the Christian community are facing, they refuse to allow the external circumstances of life rob them of their joy, which is found in, and empowered through, their relationship with God, and the anointing of God’s spirit!

I look forward to walking with you through the book of Philippians as we learn how to “live above our circumstances”.  Invite a friend, relative, acquaintance, or neighbor to join you in the coming weeks as we embrace what it means to move beyond happiness and possess an always everywhere, and at all times Joy!

Love in Christ,

Pastor Doug


Plug In to the Power!

Luke tells us in the second chapter of Acts about the day God anointed the disciples and all those gathered in Jerusalem on Pentecost: the people were “Amazed and Perplexed”.  To this day, our experience of God’s “Holy Spirit anointing” is both “Amazing and Perplexing”!

Because we live in a world that demands an explanation for everything, we’re perplexed when the outpouring of God’s Spirit moves us in ways that cannot be explained.  Because we live in a culture that teaches individualism, and self-reliance, we’re perplexed when we experience the anointing of the Spirit of our living God that moves us to consider the greater good, and embrace the power of community! And yet we stand amazed!  Amazed at the joy that is ours when we allow ourselves to receive what God has to give.  Amazed at the abundant life we possess when God’s spirit moves in and through us.

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, the day God anointed God’s people with His Spirit, and the church was born!  Pentecost, a day of new beginnings and fresh starts; a day of empowerment, clarity, and direction; a day when God’s people were equipped with what they needed in order to go the places God was leading.

As we celebrate the day of Pentecost this Sunday, I’m reminded of God’s words in Isaiah: “See, I am doing a newthing! Now it springs up” (Isaiah 43:19a).   God invites us to “Plug Into His Power”!

It is comforting, to me, that on the day of Pentecost, Cathy and I come to Hyde Park.  These are Amazing and Perplexing times, but make no mistake about it, God is “doing a new thing!  Now it springs up”.

Hyde Park Community UMC has an amazing and storied history.  A history filled with persons, in love with God, willing to receive the outpouring of God’s spirit, and move beyond their comfort zone in order to partner with God to bring God’s kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven.  Hyde Park Community UMC has been a community of grace, love and mercy, to the community in which God has placed it; a community amazed by God’s refreshing power!  It’s to this community of faith Cathy and I come, and with joy anticipate making the journey with you.

God has led Hyde Park Community UMC in powerful, and beautiful ways in the past; and God is “doing a new thing; now it springs up” as we move into the future!  Come Holy Spirit come; kindle in us the fire of your love!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug