The Story of FLOW

Once upon a time there was a growing Christian community that was committed to loving God while loving their neighbors as themselves.

It was a wonderful start to a fall Sunday morning. The sermon was inspired and was supported by the voices of the choir. The congregational singing with instrumental leadership was joyful. The worship service followed personal growth and fellowship during the adult Sunday school hour.  The morning included encouragement of outreach ministries, and we greeted first-time visitors.

After the service, I opened the driver side door to our minivan and sat next to my lovely wife. Soon attention moved to commotion and challenges from 4 young ones in the two rows of seats behind us.  I soon realized that a joyful morning was the minority opinion in the vehicle.

My church morning began with dropping our children off in Sunday school classrooms before joining the adult fellowship groups. I celebrated the worship service seated with other singers in the choir loft behind the pulpit. My wife: pacified, refereed, quieted and attended to various needs of our four children under the age of 12.

There was not a lot of adult conversation during the drive home that morning.

End of story …

… maybe not.

Life moved on and conversation did continue. It was noted that the worship service was too long for our young family. There was a nursery program. However, grade school students sat with parents during the entire service.

It was time for change.

I left the choir and joined several others who decided to focus on an opportunity.  Our goal was to create a parallel junior church service for youths between 3rd and 6th grades.  Young worshipers would leave the sanctuary during the second half of the Sunday morning service.

The next step was to create an appropriate agenda for this group that would not be a duplication of the earlier Sunday school hour. Several alternatives were considered. We decided to focus on an opportunity to encourage understanding of what a church is. Our consensus was that the Church is defined as all Believers. Our goal became to promote a definition of what makes a successful local church.

The idea of promoting the FLOW was born.

Fellowship, learning, outreach and worship were described as four cornerstones of what make a successful church.

There was a concern noted. Beginning with fellowship may imply the wrong priority for a church group. The 1st priority is to glorify God and not to be a social gathering. We decided to address the observation by reversing the letter order for our chosen acronym. Starting with worship seemed more appropriate. FLOW became WOLF.

Our theme became teaching youth that a church is a collection of God’s people. Churches that desire to be a “howling” success will strive to glorify God through: worship, outreach, learning, and fellowship.  The image of a wolf puppy became the class mascot.

The following is the letter that encouraged the parents to support our goal.

The following youth contract supported our program.

My Sunday morning role changed.  Lives committed to glorifying God continued.

End of story …

… maybe not.

Over 10 years passed into history, and we had moved to other family and life priorities. One day I received a surprise special gift from one of the young members of our Junior Church class. It expressed her appreciation for our efforts. She shared the following creative expressions including verses that she connected to our WOLF theme and her matured personal thoughts.

End of story …

… maybe not.

The expression of appreciation and the special gift was given to me by a wonderful student who would become a graduate, teacher, wife, and mother to God’s next generation. The gift is priceless because the giver was also one of our four children in the rear of a minivan challenging her father many years ago.

End of story …

… maybe not.

Over 20 years after our Junior Church program years, I was asked to meet with two men in my office. It was shortly after my father’s passing in 2015. They asked me to help with the future of the Area Christians Together in Service (ACTS) ministry. My dad had been a regular member and supporter for many years. I remember attending several ACTS events with my parents during my youth.

Several weeks later I accepted the invitation to become the next President of the ACTS Twin Tiers group. Early activities with the ACTS Board of Directors included review of the groups goals and objectives. How should we describe the components of our future strategy?

There are many wonderful churches in our area. Part of the ACTS mission is to encourage all to join and serve in their chosen home churches. Hopefully, these home churches desire to be centers of worship, outreach, learning, and fellowship. Encouraging Christians and churches to glorify God by growing together became our goal.

FLOW returned from my archives.

We imagined approaching the entrance to a church that desires to be a howling success.

W.O.L.F. are letters on the windows over the front doors.

As you leave the church you enter the outside world.

The reverse view of the entrance windows over the doors as you exit now proclaim F.L.O.W.

Christianity is simple. Christianity is personal. Life… OK now things may start to get a little complicated.

There is much diversity due to many factors including: tradition, age, location, career stage, style preference, and chosen priorities.

I like the phrase, “God does not use a cookie cutter to create snowflakes.” It celebrates the uniqueness, beauty and value of each of us.

Snowflakes are beautiful.  However, sometimes we need to come together and create snowballs that can have a greater impact on desired targets. Marching together is a great outreach opportunity.

How then shall we live?

A helpful metaphor is comparison to breathing. We inhale and exhale. Both are required by the body for life and growth. Fellowship and Learning are compared to breathing in. Outreach and Worship are similar to breathing out.  All are required for the body of Believers to grow.  All occur within an atmosphere of God’s presence.

With God’s help, the body of Christ grows by maintaining the FLOW.

ACTS FLOW - Fellowship, Learning, Outreach & Worship

ACTS’ desire is to be a catalyst and resource that encourages the Christian community to grow together as we go out to serve. Our hope is that all will join churches that desire to be howling successes and that we will be committed to maintaining the FLOW.

Our growing Christian community continues to be committed to loving God while loving our neighbors as ourselves.

End of story …

… maybe not.

Sometimes you have to say “No” in order to say “Yes” to higher callings. Leaving the choir many years ago was a challenge for me. However, it encouraged me to maintain a commitment to the special music ministry.

Changing times often require creative compromises.

The sound clip below is an expression that came from the substitute ministry.  It promotes the simple Christianity that motivates us to maintain the FLOW.

( Click  >  on the left of the black bar below to play )

Appreciation is expressed to the Giving Tree Christian bookstore ministry that served our community and connected me to accompaniment tracks.

End of story …

… maybe not.

Sunday’s church service included my dad’s favorite hymn, “How Great Thou Art.”  The time of worship concluded with a Christian chorus from my youth, “Pass It On.”

How great Thou art …

… end of story …

… pass it on.

Romans 15:5&6 NIV

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Dan Panosian

May 2018