Power of Proximity x 2

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By Martin Schlomer

Last week, Brian Sharpe wrote a Last Word on the power of proximity. If we are going to know others and be known by others, we need to be in proximity to them. We need to be with them. Most people are hungry to be with others, not just through physical proximity, but also through what I call “relational proximity.” While we might know how to have physical proximity, the relational side feels elusive. Throw into the mix busy schedules and different ages and stages in life, and relational proximity can feel beyond our reach.

What is the answer? Honestly, there isn’t just one answer. However, I know that part of the answer to the dilemma of relational connections is being willing to be with and relate to the other person. How does relating happen? Last week, Lee Severson posted an article from Psychology Today titled “Why You Need to Start Having Deeper Conversations.” It suggested that when it comes to relating to another person, instead of asking the questions, “How are you?” “How was your weekend?” “Where did you grow up?” or “What do you do for a living?” you should consider saying, “What’s your story?” “What was your favorite part of the weekend?” “Tell me something interesting about where you grew up,” or “What drew you to your line of work?” The goal is to get to know the person and to hear his or her story.

Entering another person’s story is a sacred pursuit modeled by Jesus. Because He entered the story of humanity, not just through listening but through becoming, He empathizes and understands our lives, our weaknesses, and our vulnerabilities. He knows our stories. When we choose relational proximity, to enter another person’s story through listening and engaging, we can give this person a taste of what it is to be known by his or her Father. As we lean into this as a Jesus-formed community, we give the fragrance of our Father to all who enter.

Whose story can you pursue this week? Next week? Let’s make the choice. Choose to listen … and enjoy the journey!

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WHAT’S UP? An Exciting Announcement

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By Martin Schlomer

Six months ago, we found ourselves faced with the need for a new Children’s Ministries Director. Now, in case you haven’t noticed, Elim has A LOT of children running around (80+ kids 5th grade and under)! We have A LOT of volunteers who lead out in this ministry (50 leaders and helpers)! It can feel overwhelming.

“What are we going to do?” was my first thought. My second thought was, “Father, these circumstances did not take You by surprise. What do You want to do?” As the elders and staff prayed, there was peace. We sensed the need to wait to see how things developed over the next four to six months. Cheryl Weller stepped back in as our interim Children’s Ministries Director.

Then, we waited. We prayed. We clarified the skills we wanted the person to have. This was going to be a big decision. Ministry to children is VERY IMPORTANT in this body and to our Father.

In late June, we sensed it was time to take the next step. We put the information out to the congregation and invited those interested in the position to apply. We were blessed to have two well-qualified, enthusiastic people apply. The decision was difficult!

But now I want to introduce to you Geneva Mooney as our next Children’s Ministries Director. Geneva is no stranger to Elim or Children’s Ministries. Jean and Geneva have been actively serving at Elim for three years. Geneva brings a lot of spiritual maturity and discernment, enthusiasm, creativity, organization, and team-building skills to this core ministry. Her heart is to serve the volunteers so that they can thrive as they use their gifts. When Pastor Nate resigned, she volunteered to lead Elim’s Sunday-morning children’s program. Her passion is to serve!

As we prepare to enter the fall months filled with activities and ministries, please pray for Geneva and the entire Children’s Ministries team. Their task is huge, and the weight we all feel to nurture our children as passionate followers of Jesus is significant! While we have a great team of volunteers, there are some specific leadership positions we need to fill with qualified individuals. There are opportunities on Sunday mornings and on Wednesday evenings with AWANA. Would you consider serving and discipling our children? It is a significant calling our Father has placed on this community as He has blessed us with these children.

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OUR FATHER DELIGHTS IN US!

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By Pastor Martin Schlomer

“Light up the darkness!” (2 Corinthians 4:6, The Message)

Delight, honor, and repair: these three words are reshaping my heart and relationships. These are three words my Father has spoken over me. In my upcoming Last Words, I’m going to look at each of these three words, one at a time.

This week:

My Father delights over me!

This is the heartbeat of the gospel. Our Father delights over us! This is personally transformational. When I am having a horrible day and my choices reflect the darkness of my own ways, He speaks a better word over me than I deserve. When I sin, He offers forgiveness. When I fail, He gives me His Son, and I get the righteousness of Jesus. He lights up my darkness, and He shepherds me through the chaos! Why? Because He’s my Father. This is what good and gracious fathers do. We are connected.

“Light up the darkness!” Speak our Father’s delight over another person today, tomorrow, the day after, next week. When we do, we bring the presence of hope and beauty into lives silently simmering in uncertainty, loneliness, shame, and chaos. Find something our Father delights in and speak it. It’s transformational for them and for us. I’m the beneficiary. As I pass on my Father’s delight, His delight leaves a residue of joy in my life!

Delight, honor, and repair — three words that are reshaping my heart and relationships. In a few weeks, I’ll share about the concept of honor. Until then, “Light up the darkness!”

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What’s Next? Navigating Our Needs in Children’s and Worship Ministries

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By Pastor Martin Schlomer

It’s been about six weeks since Nate Champneys resigned as Associate Pastor of Worship and Children’s Ministries. Many have asked, “What’s next?” Transitions always raise questions, and I want to address some of these in this week’s Last Word.

“Will we hire another full-time pastor to lead Children’s and Worship Ministries?” At this point in our transition process, the answer is, probably not. Right now, we are evaluating our lay leadership resources and looking for ways to equip and empower them to lead these important ministry areas.

“Will Children’s Ministries continue to be a high priority at Elim?” YES! Elim has always placed a high priority on our ministry to children. This commitment has guided our decisions for the past 25 years and will continue to do so. In collaboration with our current children’s ministry leadership and volunteers, we are assessing our needs and identifying ways to improve our ministry effectiveness. We are also currently in the planning stages of determining how this core commitment will shape our facility expansion plan in the near future. As new and more young families continue to join Elim’s ranks, we will continue to make resourcing Children’s Ministries a high priority.

“Who is overseeing Children’s Ministries?” Cheryl Weller has graciously stepped into this role. Cheryl was our Children’s Ministries Director for 17 years, so she brings a wealth of experience. She is working closely with Julie Davis and the rest of the Awana leadership to oversee Awana, as well as with Geneva Mooney and the other Sunday-morning coordinators to oversee our Sunday-morning children’s program. She is also forming a team who will lead our summer children’s ministries. If you have questions, comments, or concerns, please see Cheryl Weller or Brian Sharpe. They welcome the opportunity to talk further.

“What is our strategy for leadership for Worship Ministries?” In January, Nate developed four worship teams with four worship leaders, leading one himself and being joined by Brian Waple, Tomina Sharpe, and Roger Petersohn. With his resignation, we have consolidated the four teams to three very strong teams, led by Brian, Tomina, and Roger. Brian Sharpe is working closely with our sound and video teams. Together, Brian and I are moving forward with training and developing our leaders.

“Are we considering hiring a part-time Children’s Ministries Director and a part-time Worship Ministries Director?” Yes. We are praying and waiting to see whom God brings to the surface. Our prayerful goal is to have a part-time director in place over Children’s Ministries by September. Regarding a part-time director of worship, we will need to wait and see how things develop.

Please keep praying for your church during this process. We want to have the right people in place when the time is right. This will take wisdom and patience. It will also require transparency and congregational support. As a leadership team (staff and elders), we are committed to this process being transparent. We want to hear your questions and answer them as best we can. We need your prayer support. Elim is the bride of Jesus, and we want to love her and lead her well.

Moreover, as a congregation, we need everyone to remain faithful financially. Some of what we are able to accomplish will be dependent on that faithfulness.
Finally, I want to say THANK YOU to all our leaders and volunteers! Everyone has pulled together during this transition, and they’re serving others and our Lord well! When you see someone serving, tell them “Thank you!” We are all energized when others notice.

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I Made a Promise: Confronting the Shame and Bondage of Sexual Abuse

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By Pastor Martin Schlomer

It was early February 2016 when I made a promise to the Elim family. We had to confront the ugly reality of sexual abuse. A young man was accused of sexual abuse. When confronted, he confessed that the accusation was true. The individual was turned over to the proper authorities and arrested.

While none of this abuse happened at any Elim ministry event, we were asked the question, “What’s next?” Many others came with their own stories of being victims of sexual abuse. This was my introduction to the ugly reality that so many people must endure. One in three women and one in five men have endured sexual abuse. Most suffer in silent agony, enslaved in deep and toxic shame. I promised the Elim family that we would develop a strategy to shepherd and disciple those adults among us who have been victimized by sexual predators.

After eight months of thinking, praying, and looking for someone to help guide us through this process, I met with Shonna Porter to brainstorm options. She connected me with Mary Jane Apple, who works alongside Dr. Dan Allender, a renowned Christian psychologist in the realm of sexual abuse. I have assembled a team of eager individuals who will work with Shonna and Mary Jane to be trained and to develop a strategy to move us forward. At this point, Elim will host two seminars this fall. In September/October, we will host a two-hour seminar for Elim and the South Hill community, with the topic of defining the scope of sexual abuse: What is it, and how does it happen? Then, before the end of the year, we hope to offer a two-day intensive seminar called “Healing the Wounded Heart.” Coming out of these seminars, it is my hope that we will be equipped to pursue an ongoing ministry outreach based upon our understanding.

Why is this important? The Gospel has the power not just to save us for eternity, but also to lead us on the way of freedom here and now! “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). This fullness is for ALL men and women who bow their knee before Jesus, experiencing His heart and following His ways!

This journey will be no picnic in the park. In my first conversation with Mary Jane, she asked me, “Why do you want to pursue this path?” After I explained my reasons, she gave me this rather unsettling assurance: “You are stepping into some strongholds, some very dark places. Satan will not step aside and walk quietly into the night. You need to build a prayer team as you begin this journey.” This is now my first priority! If you are willing to pray weekly, please email me (martin@elimefc.org), and I will put you on a prayer list and will keep you updated monthly on ways you can pray. Please put “Allies in Prayer” in the subject line.

May our Father lead us as we bring the light of the Kingdom of God to very dark places!

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I Am Not … the Hero!

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By Pastor Martin Schlomer

Over the years some people have given me certain gifts and various “titles.” One couple gave me a Superman cape because they said I projected the image of a caped crusader on a mission to rescue people and save the world! Another individual calls me Father Martin. She says, “I am like a father to Elim.” These tell a story, a perception that I can fix things, make things happen. I can see why.

In January 1994, when I was 33 years old, I flew to the Northwest to interview with Elim for this position of Senior Pastor. I was full of hope and personal expectations that I would do great things for Elim! I was eager to make necessary changes, see the church grow, and reach the lost. The church wanted the same. I believed I could make it happen. (Looking back, there was a lot of personal ego tied to achieving these outcomes!) On February 13, this small congregation cast their votes, and on April 1, 1994, we arrived in Puyallup. Such were the aspirations of a young man who wanted to be the hero.

Over the past 22 years — especially 2015 and 2016 — my Father has shown me that I’m NOT the hero in this story! My limitations have been exposed. My Father has confronted my sinful ego. I am learning to accept that I do not have the power to change a person’s heart with persuasive arguments, to heal a person’s wounds with empathy and prayers, to persuade a person to do what they do not want to do, to raise money, to build new buildings, or even to fix a broken toilet. That’s right: I’m no hero!

The important news is, I’m okay with this now. For me, 2016 was all about trying to let go of ropes that tied me to my dysfunctional expectations.

Seven Priorities for 2017

In 2017, what can you expect from me as your Senior Pastor? What do I hope for in 2017? First, I will work to do my part to shepherd and equip people (through personal growth, prayer, preaching, leading and discipling) to be passionate disciples of Jesus who make passionate disciples of Jesus. Every person has a role to play. Every person is called by Jesus to invest in this one mission: be a disciple who makes disciples. No exceptions! No excuses! We are like rivers of gospel-motivated grace, changing the landscape, not reservoirs where we gather to simply enjoy the company of others to meet our own needs.

Second, I will continue to develop those who are discipling others at Elim. We call them our “Pauls.” We will meet on a quarterly basis to strategize and problem solve issues and challenges they experience as they take on this important role of making disciples.

Third, I will get involved in reaching out to those who are lost in our community. I will do this by becoming a court-appointed special advocate (CASA), working with the Department of Social and Human Services (DSHS). It is my strong desire to bring the heart and hope of our Father to those who are in very dark and desperate circumstances. It is my desire that this will be the heart of Elim as well. For this to happen, I must lead by example.

Fourth, I will work with a team of people who will facilitate a process to help victims of sexual abuse. One in five men and one in three women suffer from the trauma and shame of sexual abuse. It is our desire to help them begin their redemptive journey toward personal health and wholeness.

Fifth, I will continue to partner with Brian Sharpe and our staff, with the Elders and the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA), to develop a leadership development pipeline. This development process will apply to all ministries across the board. It will implement the steps a person needs to follow to be developed and coached as a leader. To accomplish this, Elim is a part of a cohort of churches being trained and held accountable to implement this process. It is an exciting, yet challenging, yearlong development process.

Sixth, I will step back from working with the Stewardship Team and empower them to take a more proactive approach not just to monitor Elim’s finances, but also to communicate with the congregation our financial position and strategize how to meet Elim’s future financial needs, especially regarding our campus needs. At some point, soon, Elim must replace the building known as the “Youth House,” which is also used for MOPs and Oasis Kids. It gets a lot of use, even though it is well past its original intended end-of-life date.

And finally, I will step back from overseeing property and build a team of people to oversee and care for our facilities and landscaping. We need people to prune, weed, trim bushes, clean gutters, mow grass, etc. There is no shortage of opportunities for people to serve, even just a couple of hours every month. How we care for our property is an indication of how much we value what we do on this strategic corner for the 50,000+ people who drive by daily.

Four Things I Hope for From You

In 2017, what do I expect from those who consider Elim to be their church home?

First, join in this journey of growing as a passionate follower of Jesus who nurtures passionate followers of Jesus. (Be a disciple who makes disciples!) Jesus has a fierce commitment to our joining Him on this transformational journey.

Second, ask our Father to develop your heart to reach out to those who are lost. I hope that we will hear you tell your stories of how our Father is using you to influence the landscape of another person’s life.

Third, use the talents our Father has given you to serve the needs of His Church, both within these walls and beyond. The heart of Jesus is not that we will be served, but that we will serve others.

Fourth, give generously to meet the needs and commitments of this Body so that we might fulfill our purpose to nurture passionate followers of Jesus who nurture passionate followers of Jesus in South Hill and beyond.

I close with what I shared on Sunday morning, January 15, 2017. Jesus didn’t come to live the life of a servant, die the death of a savior, rise from the dead as a victor, and indwell us with the power of His Holy Spirit, all so that we might just GO TO CHURCH! He lived the life of a servant, died the death of a savior, rose from the dead as a victor, and indwells us with the power of His Holy Spirit SO THAT we might BE THE CHURCH! Amen?

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