Archives For Pastoring

For those of you that may not have heard, my life is taking a new twist. I’m stepping into a new role, a new arena of Kingdom building as part of a mission-minded non-profit called Community Reinvestment Foundation. This time has been the definition of bittersweet for us, but the excitement and anticipation is palpable. The future is bright.

This past Sunday, I had the honor of preaching my last message as an “official” City Community Church staff pastor. If you ever take the time to listen to anything I’ve ever said, please listen to this. If you only remember one thing about me, I hope it’s this message.

Click on the imbedded player below or download it to your computer or mobile device by clicking here.

Take a few minutes, over lunch, on the drive home, in your early morning hours, and let this truth of the Gospel sink into your soul. Grasp this message. It’s a game changer. It’s changing me.

If you only remember one thing I’ve ever said…..

What do you think? I’d love to have a conversation. Start it in the comments section below!

Some days are a mixed cocktail of joy and pain.

Hurt and hope.

Wounds and dreams.

Sometimes all these emotions collide simultaneously. And that’s where our family finds itself today.

On September 7, we will be stepping off full-time staff at City Community Church. The church we helped plant alongside our forever-friends, Nathan & Tricia LaGrange. The church that has become our home. The church where lives have been changed (a few even beyond our own so I’ve heard).

No pain could be greater. Yet at the same time, our anticipation is full-tilt!

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I’ve been asked by my dad and his board to come on staff at Community Reinvestment Foundation, a non-profit my father quietly helped build and has served as President for the last 20 years. CRF is a housing organization. They own and manage lower-income multi-family apartments across Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio. They’ve greatly improved the quality of life for their residents over the past two decades. But to top it off, the founding purpose of this organization is to generate profits for missions projects around the globe.

It’s an unbelievably beautiful organization, and an absolute honor to be asked to join the team.

I’ll initially be helping to launch some new initiatives both globally and locally, and then over time, slowly acquiring more and more of my dad’s day-to-day leadership responsibilities (he’s the youngest 68 year old I’ve ever met, but human is human).

I’ll be unfolding more details here on the blog here over the next week or so, but if you’d like to hear the whole story now in my own emotional words, here is what I shared with our church community.

Our heart remains with CityCom, and we will continue to love and serve in whatever capacity is helpful to the leadership there, regardless of where we draw a salary.

So please pray for the LaGranges and the entire church community as we all walk through this transition together. The future is bright, I know it. Like a muscle, sometimes the Kingdom of God has to tear to expand.

The pain is as real as the joy, and today we embrace both of them together.

More updates soon.

He doesn’t wear skinny jeans.

He doesn’t have a soul patch.

No blog.

No Twitter account.

He’s not on Catalyst’s short list for speakers.

No congregation to call his own.

No books to his name.

His glasses aren’t all that trendy.

(Although he does still have a great head of hair).

He’s my father-inlaw – Rev. David Wigington. Former pastor. Thirty year district leader for the Indiana Assemblies of God. Bionic man (his right arm is prosthetic from the elbow down). Grandfather (we say “Pa”) to my 3 kids. And my current landlord (rent’s cheap) while we wait to move into our new house.

A few weeks ago, I was thinking through an upcoming message I was going to preach at CityCom. I was wrestling with the process, so on a whim I asked my father-in-law a question I had (embarrassingly) never thought to ask him before:

“How do you prepare your sermons?”

An hour later I had uncovered treasure – inspiration, a few practical tips, and a goldmine of stories that deepened my faith in how God works through us, as well as my respect for a man I already greatly admired.

I’ve read the books. I’ve been to the conferences. I subscribe to the blogs. I share best practices with my peers. All important and empowering things! But I never thought to explore one of my greatest assets. A man I share meals with a few times a week. A man with 40-plus years of ministry experience. A man who trusted me enough to let me marry his daughter.

Call it ignorance.

Call it stupidity.

Call it pride.

Something blinded me from a treasure that I already had. Which got me wondering:

What gifts are sitting right there in front of us that we simply can’t (or choose not to) see?

The older I get, the more I awaken to the wealth of wisdom in the people around me, and the more I regret not realizing it sooner.

Are you still looking for something you might already have? Share it below. You just might help someone else awaken to something they’re missing, too!

We laughed until our stomachs hurt. Then moments later the tears would flow – uncontrollably for some. Then out of the sorrow, another hysterical story would unfold and the room was once again howling like we were screening a Will Ferrell flick.

It was grieving at it’s best. A grievabration!

Our co-laborer, colleague, and dear friend was gone. His life perplexingly cut short by a deeply troubled woman. In the wake of this tragic loss, twenty fellow pastors gathered in a basement conference room to comfort, celebrate, and remember.

I’ve known Jaman Iseminger for a little over two years. Each Wednesday afternoon, we’d gather with a core group of other spiritual leaders from around Indy to contend for unity amongst our churches and to simply share life together. Our brokenness. Our strengths. Our failures. Our successes. It’s personal and often uncomfortably vulnerable. And we desperately need it.

Yesterday’s grievabration was a sobering reminder of how quickly death clarifies. When we’re gone, the dross just seems to fall away, and what we’re left with is essence. Legacy. The things that really matter.

Jaman was as human as any of us, but he was also a hero. And as we gathered to share memories and stories, his true character quickly emerged. Nothing faked. Nothing fabricated. There was no need.

A man of integrity. A man of honor. A man of service. (A man with one quirky and awesome sense of humor). A mighty man of God. That’s the essence, the inspiration, the legacy, he so obviously leaves behind.

Moments like these force us to reflect. If my life ended today–if your life ended today–how would those closest to us grieve? What would they remember? What would instantly rise to the top? Would it be a grievabration?

As you remember this story in the coming weeks and months, please continue to pray for Jaman’s wife Amanda, and their beautiful 2 year old daughter, Belle. Indy lost a pastor, we lost a friend, but they lost a husband and daddy.

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” –Psalm 34:18 NLT

Today We Grieve

Erik Cooper —  May 21, 2012 — 2 Comments

Have you ever gotten a phone call that you just don’t know what to do with? No clue how to process. What to say? What to write? If it’s even OK to try and express anything at all?

Two short days ago, a colleague, co-laborer, and dear personal friend lost his life. As the new day was dawning, a woman walked into his church, pulled out a gun, and stole him away. From his wife and two year old daughter. From the community of Christ-followers that he heroically led. From all of us. He was 29 years old.

Heart attack and died.

Cancer and died.

Car accident and died.

Death is always tragic, but at least my brain can process those scenarios.

I don’t have a place for this one. It doesn’t fit. Doesn’t compute. I just don’t get it. And that insatiable need to explain can easily turn tragedy into triteness. These are the moments that birth cheap cliches.

Human beings are meaning machines. We need purpose. To know “why?” But I find, in times like these, my drive to understand is often a self-protection mechanism to dodge the pain.

On days like these, perhaps the most God-honoring response is just to grieve. Reflect. Remember. Weep. Feel it all. Fully.

Death will always feel foreign to us. Offensive. It wasn’t a part of God’s original design–a disastrous byproduct of man’s sin and rebellion. When we grieve, we acknowledge the imperfection of our current struggle and longing for the day when God will finally complete the restoration of His Creation. With that focus, grief itself can almost become an expression of worship.

Jaman my friend, I miss you already. Your wisdom. Your sense of humor. Your way of cutting through the bull and forcing the us to see the point. Knowing you changed me, and for that I am grateful.

Today we grieve. Not without sadness, but not without hope.

See you again buddy. But not soon enough.