The Church as the Center of the Community

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By Bill Naron

To the believers amongst the body of Elim,

I have been meditating lately on the hope we have in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. How sure is our hope because He gave his body for us and rose victorious over death and sin. He paid the debt that we were enslaved to from our birth. Jesus is our hope and the catalyst that began a revolution, the original counter to culture, and we are called to follow suit.

Comparing today’s American Christian churches with that of the first-century church, I see vast differences in the way they operate. One of the more apparent changes is that the overwhelming number of programs offered by today’s churches tend to be more self-help, fellowship, or inward-focused. I cannot help but be bewildered by the stark contrast to that of the first-century church, where the body of believers were more network-minded, fostered community, and seemed to be more outreach-oriented.

Realizing these important distinctions only reinforced my excitement for the direction our leadership is taking us in 2018! Because while fellowship, self-help, and community all help believers grow in communion with Christ, these things cannot be the only mission of a Christ-minded church. The apostles and community of believers mentored the unsaved and walked through life with them. The church had a major impact on society and culture, and the Gospel spread like wildfire.

What will this more evangelistic, Gospel-spreading mentorship look like? I cannot say for sure. This is different than anything I have seen implemented in my years as a follower of Jesus Christ. I know that in the 1800s it was not uncommon for a church building to be the center of the community in many ways, including hosting schools and courthouses. While I am not suggesting we go back there, I am curious what it would look like for Elim to become such a prominent place of community again, a place where we the believers physically invite others to join in the life-altering power of the Gospel! And that we as believers could somehow regain that Christ-focused impact for good even on public institutions such as schools and courthouses. Let us not only be hearers of the Word, but also doers of the Word.

Being an oasis of renewal in our community can only begin with the gathering of the community. We must break down our walls of insecurity and fear and truly be intentional fishers of men.

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Chaos in America: Have We Prayed for Justice Like our Lives Depend on It?

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By Larry Short, Community Ministry Director

I was watching the news this morning as Melissa Falkowski, an English and journalism teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, was being interviewed about her experience protecting her students in the midst of the horrific school shooting yesterday morning. At one point in the interview, as I recall, she said something that reached down deep inside of me:

“I’ve seen this on TV, we all have, shooting after shooting, and there’s always the same thing that is said, you know: ‘It’s not the time to talk about gun control . . . it’s time to pray for the families.’ And I just think that that hasn’t gotten us anywhere. And now here we are. We’re the latest statistic on school violence. And as a society, as Americans, we’re failing our children. We’re not keeping them safe. Congress is failing us. The government is failing us. And something has to be done.”

Obviously, it’s been a depressing 24 hours, and we can (and probably will) debate the role that guns, or the media, or school policies, or whatever have played in these national tragedies. But what struck me, of course, is the comment that “We’ve prayed, and it obviously hasn’t gotten us anywhere.” And she’s right about the fact that school violence is getting worse and worse.

I ask myself, Is she right when she asserts that we’ve prayed? I’m not so sure.

And I’m speaking for myself here. Have I prayed when I’ve heard about school shootings? Did I pray for myself and my students when I was a tutor last year at Emerald Ridge High School and Glacier View Junior High? Do I pray each morning when I send my wife off to her job as a school nurse at elementary schools in downtown Puyallup? Do I pray for my precious granddaughter as she spends her days in her first-grade class in Pennsylvania?

The answer is yes, I’ve prayed. Some. But have I really gotten down on my knees, consistently, persistently, and begged the One I call Lord and King to do something to stop the downward slide of our country into moral oblivion and suicidal hopelessness that I think each of us truly believes (guns or no) is really at the root of all this chaos and violence?

Have I wrestled with Him on this issue, and listened for His voice? If He were to say, “What if I wanted YOU to be a part of the solution?” have I responded like the prophet of old: “Here I am, Lord. Send me!”

I confess that I haven’t done THAT. Have you?

In Luke 18, Jesus shares a profound parable about a widow who seeks justice with an all-powerful but “unjust” judge who could grant it, but isn’t inclined to. After much persistence, he finally relents. And Jesus concludes, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Some parables are a little difficult to figure out. But the meaning of this one is crystal clear, and it is a huge indictment on my heart and may be on yours as well. He assures us that His Father is wholly unlike that unjust judge. Instead, He is EAGER to grant justice, and quickly! But the question is, Are we serious about asking Him for it? Have we persisted “day and night”? Have we prayed like our lives depend on it?

I’m starting to believe that my life depends on it. How about you?

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You can always read more on Larry’s blogs:

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JOURNEY: I Refuse to Go There!

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By Martin Schlomer, Senior Pastor

Two weeks ago, I spoke of the journey Elim is taking over the next few years and the need to chart a course that equips us to be disciples who make disciples among those who are not disciples. In my annual report, I shared how we had no adult I was aware of who had come to know Jesus in 2017. I asked the question, “What might it be like to come to the end of 2018, look back, and celebrate 12 adults who have given their lives to our Lord, have been baptized, and are now in disciple-making relationships?” (Since I wrote my annual report, I learned of a good friend who gave his life to our Lord in December! We will celebrate by baptizing him this Sunday!)

We have done a great job developing disciples among those who are already a part of our community, but we need to be equipped to make disciples among those who are outside our four walls.

As some people have pondered this “course correction,” a few questions and concerns have surfaced that I would like to address.

“Are you going to establish a quota for new Christians each year at Elim?” Absolutely not! This would betray a belief that you or I have the power to convince someone to give his or her life to Jesus. We do not have the power to determine outcomes on behalf of other people. This would be foolishness. Not even Jesus claimed to have this power while on Earth.

“Are you going to restart outreach programs like Freezing Nights, Feeding the Homeless, or Faith in Action?” While these are great compassion outreach ministries, they are beyond the scope of what I’m talking about. I’m not planning on starting any programs. As we take our next steps, if there is support for compassion-based outreach among people ready to lead and serve, we can certainly try to facilitate making that happen. But compassion-based outreach is beyond the scope of where we are going at this point in time.

“Then what is the Journey about?” It is about being disciples who make disciples among those who are not disciples. It’s about loving our Father and His mission. It is about embracing the truth that we are made for His mission. It’s about being equipped to live out this mission through our identity as salt and light among our friends, neighbors, coworkers, or whomever our Father brings our way. It’s about being a part of a community who pray fervently and support one another as we walk out our Father’s mission. It is about understanding how a person develops from a nonbeliever to a maturing disciple. I’m sure we’ll discover a lot more as we take this journey together.

“What’s next?” Last Sunday, we started a three-week preparation process. If you missed the message, please take time to listen. It is that important that we are all on the same page. Last Sunday, I gave everyone some homework. First, prepare your heart by asking our Father to give you a heart for those who are not disciples. Second, do what you can to protect and repair your reputation among all people. We are salt and light. If we ignore this aspect of our identity, we become something our Father never intended us to be (Matthew 5:13b). Third, identify two to three people who do not know Jesus whom you can pray for daily that our Father would prepare their hearts to surrender to the gospel. We must always talk to our Father about our friends before we talk to our friends about our Father.

As we take this journey, we will have opportunities to share the great things our Father will be doing. Jesus promised that as we go on this mission, He will be with us, empowering and leading along the way! To me, this is the most exciting part! See you along the way!

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In the Bleak Midwinter

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by Brian Waple

As I began reflecting on writing a Last Word for this week, I asked myself, “What would people need to hear?” Do they need to hear how much God loves them? Probably—we all need to be reminded of that. Or perhaps they need to hear about Christ’s substitutionary atonement for their sins. Again, in and of itself that’s good stuff, but not this week. Maybe they need to hear more about Pastor Martin’s new vision for creating a culture of being “disciples who make disciples among those who are not disciples” outside the walls of Elim. He promised we would hear more about that in the weeks to come.

Okay, so what then? I was ruminating on this and looking out the window and watching the rain, and then it dawned on me. As you may or may not know, winters in the Pacific Northwest can be difficult for some people (myself included). There is a bleakness to the winters here that makes us all groan for summer and warmer weather. That’s an interesting word—bleak. Dictionary.com gives this definition: “without hope or encouragement; depressing; dreary.” I have said many times how dreary the winters are here … but hopeless?

There is a wonderful old Christmas hymn that I remember singing as a kid. It’s called In the Bleak Midwinter, and the words of the hymn were written by Christina Rossetti in the late 1800s. The last line of the hymn goes like this:

“What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would give a lamb; if I were a wise man, I would do my part; yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.” (my italics)

Giving one’s heart means not holding back at all. In the hymn, Rossetti is speaking about what we have to give the Christ child. And even in the midst of our most abject poverty, when we have nothing left to give, we can still give our heart! It is interesting when we reflect on what God gave us. Almighty God could have given in to the desires that spring up from our wildest dreams. But He didn’t; instead, He gave us the most precious thing He had to give: He gave us his Son. He gave us His heart. And with that gift, we are not hopeless.

So, when life seems as bleak as a Pacific Northwest winter, the hope that we who call Jesus Lord and Savior have transcends the bleakness, the dreariness, the hopelessness. And that hope should encourage us to be willing to give our hearts to others. Maybe it’s toward your neighbor; maybe it’s toward a stranger; maybe it’s toward a friend; maybe it’s toward a family member. For many of us, this is all we can give. But it’s the giving of our hearts to others, as God freely did toward us, that helps transform us into the people God created us to be.

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