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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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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Performance Feedback

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by Dan Amos

There are few things in life I dislike more than watermelon, chalkboard screeching, and performance feedback. I can decline the watermelon, and whiteboards have pretty much replaced chalkboards, but they keep making new ways to do feedback. At work, it’s a semiannual recurrence, whether I want it or not.

But, there’s a reason for it. Without feedback, we tend to not improve. While I’m pretty sure I have a good grasp on my world, I’m continually shown that there are other perspectives on things and lots of stuff to which I am just totally oblivious.

As a body, we at Elim are committed to making disciples—passionate followers of Jesus who seek to know God, grow together in Christ, and go and serve South Hill and beyond. We have a staff, a building, a budget, and people—so how are we doing? We can ask ourselves or a few and see part of the picture. But to really know, we need to get feedback from as many as possible.

Feedback isn’t just a general question about how you are doing personally, or how we are doing as a body. It’s more specific, and a team has put together some questions designed to make each of us think and give useful feedback. The answers to these questions will help assess our progress in the following:

  • Worshipping our Father
  • Maturing in our faith
  • Connecting as disciples in community
  • Reaching out to our unsaved neighbors and friends

Community groups and Bible studies are being asked to work through questions on these four areas. Regular attenders who are not currently in one of these groups will be asked to meet with a small group of others to give feedback. Someone will take notes, and all the notes will be collected and reviewed and studied for themes and things to work on. The idea is to keep moving forward as disciples. Complacency is not an option.

On another note, Tom Chase just finished six years as an elder and is taking his constitutionally-required break from that service. For the last few years he has been the vice-chairman of the board, and last year he led us as the chairman. He served sacrificially and with passion. He did not seek the position, but he humbly accepted it, to our great benefit. Thank you, Tom; and thank you, Corrie, for enabling him to serve so well!

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Salt, Light, and Uber Mushrooms

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My son Nathan (far left) and I training up a generation of future mushroom hunters.

By Larry Short

In worship last weekend, we heard Pastor Martin share from John 2 of Christ’s consuming passion for both the symbolic and manifest presence of God in our midst.

For the Jews of His day, that symbolic presence was the Temple. Christ’s passion for this powerful symbol of God’s presence in the midst of His people was so consuming that this most meek, humble, and lowly of men stunned religious leaders, bystanders, and even His own disciples by making a whip of cords and forcefully driving exploiters out of His Father’s House of Prayer! (That would have been something to see!)

Passion for the Presence

One of the most fascinating things about this passage, to me, is the few verses that follow it. They reveal that while the Temple was the symbolic presence of God, the real presence of God there in Jerusalem, the real “Temple,” was the Body of Jesus Himself:

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken 46 years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body.

Martin then went on to connect this passage with 1 Corinthians 3:16:

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

The implications are profound. We are to be consumed with zeal for the presence of God in His Church, the Body of Christ—both corporately and locally, and, more specifically, as He dwells in the hearts of our brothers and sisters in Christ! Loving each other well is how the world will know we are His disciples. We are to burn with passion for His Church, His presence in the midst of a dark and decaying world.

Being Salt and Light

We are also to honor God’s presence in our own hearts by seeking His holiness and by being salt and light as He calls us to be.

Recently, on my personal blog, I shared how God used Cindy, one of our sisters in Christ here at Elim, to help me understand how He wanted me to recognize that part of the purpose for this particular season in my life, having been laid off from my career job with World Vision, was to “clear out the rubble” so I could move forward to see and embrace what He next had for me.

I had an epiphany of sorts about this while Martin was sharing on Sunday. He spoke about how he had struggled to understand how he could be salt and light while working completely within the “Christian bubble” that is Elim and how, as a result in 2017, he was planning to move “out of the bubble” and become a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) in order to start sprinkling salt into some of the places in our world that really needed it!

This made me think about what God was doing in my own heart and life. At World Vision, I too frequently felt frustrated that I never really had the opportunity to rub shoulders with the unsaved. (World Vision is another “Christian bubble.”)

Then, guess what? My “bubble” got burst! I was laid off. Since then, God has been building four new things into my life, and it wasn’t until Sunday that I realized each of them is an opportunity for me to become better salt and light. Here are the four things:

  • Writing a science fiction novel
  • Tutoring for the Puyallup School District
  • Developing a mushroom business, training young ‘shroom hunters, and writing about what fungus teaches us about the presence and heart of God
  • Driving for Uber, which has created many opportunities to share Jesus’s love with more than a few (because they asked)

For more about how each of these four activities creates opportunities for me to be salt and light (and how fungus declares the glory of God), see this blog post.


Salt and Light Is Humble and Simple, Right?

Working for nearly minimum wage as a tutor or a wannabe taxi driver is not something I anticipated as God’s best for me when I was laid off from World Vision. (Although I could see myself gushing about mushrooms or writing sci-fi! I’m weird, I know.) Compared to what I achieved and experienced at that wonderful organization, what I am doing now is humbling in the truest sense of that word. But as I realized as Pastor Martin was teaching, it’s not something I chose; it’s something God chose for me, even as I prayed for His best for my life and for how He might use me in His Kingdom.

So, that’s my challenge to each of us as we consider how God wants to use US to be salt and light. You may not be the next American Idol, or the Great American Novelist. But, maybe, does God want you to serve others in the humblest ways possible? Perhaps He wants you to help a bedridden invalid, or care for a foster child, or ride the bus and talk to a hurting stranger, or build and hand out homeless survival kits. Or maybe He wants you to spend your time and energy praying (in obscurity, like countless prayer warriors before you) for anyone and everyone. Who knows?

Being salt and light is not just an individual responsibility for the believer; it’s a Body responsibility. So we are also to encourage and hold each other accountable as we seek to “march off the map” and influence a world that desperately needs Jesus.

Pray for His best (both for you, for Elim, and for the Kingdom), and then let Him lead you where He wishes to!

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Sharing Who We Have Become, Because of God’s Love for Us

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By Jim DeAngelo

I had the opportunity a few days ago to share Jesus, but it was a bit different. An acquaintance talked to me about how they had difficulty with their neighbor and wished a large wooden screen could be erected to block their view of the neighbor whose front yard joined theirs. As I knew that both proclaimed their relationship with Jesus, I asked the person, “How this could be?” They both professed Jesus, and they were joined in that relationship. Jesus states in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (ESV). This person shared how they didn’t know why it was so, and they gave a few examples that demonstrated the other person’s anger with them. They appreciated the discussion and recognized it wasn’t how they were to live, that they needed to address the unforgiveness.

The conversation continued for more than an hour on additional subjects that focused on Scripture and our personal walk and beliefs. The most pronounced of these was on the authenticity of Scripture. They felt that the Bible was written by men and subject to interpretation through culture, the culture during the time the Scriptures were written and the different culture of now. They felt that this filtering was the best approach to understanding God and defining how we are to live our lives.

I admit this was challenging. Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “All Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (NKJV). If a person believed the Bible was stories written by man instead of God breathed, then the culture defined our walk instead of God. A decision to filter Scripture based on a cultural view results in the ability to justify any position a person wants to take and to indulge in any sin or practice we feel is culturally okay instead of what is presented in God’s Word. This decision removes the safeguards that God has lovingly given us for our own good and protection.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18:

“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship does righteousness have with lawlessness? And what partnership does light have with darkness? And what agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what part does a believer have with an unbeliever? And what agreement does a temple of God have with idols? For you are the temple of the living God, as God has said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’ Therefore come out from among them and be separated, says the Lord, and do not touch the unclean thing. And I will receive you and I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (NKJV)

Martin preached on this subject July 20, 2014, in his sermon titled, “The Bible: Is the Bible Historically Reliable?” You can hear that onlne here.

This is where I was given the opportunity to lovingly share my position and to encourage the other person to see our relationship with God through the love of Christ and each other. I shared with this person that God gave us His word to direct our lives and that it is authentic, and that I was discussing this to share my love for Jesus and how He had changed my heart and my life to be different from whom I had been and whom the culture would define me as. This is the testimony, that love does define who we are. To share means we share out of our love instead of our rightness.

I know that we will have opportunities to share and discuss the living God and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I look forward to sharing whom I have become because of God’s love for me.

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The Nations in America

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By Stan Peterson

Recently I’ve been working in the UW district of Seattle on Brooklyn Avenue at an old apartment complex named Campus Apartments. I’m a fire sprinkler fitter installing a new system in the basement. As I work from unit to unit I get a thorough vista of all around the site. From that view last Wednesday I saw a young man walking down the alley with a friend smoking a cigarette, when all of a sudden I got an impression or unction to go to this young man and share the Gospel. I hesitated and uttered a quick prayer, something like, “Do You really want me to go to him?” I dropped my tool bags, ran up the stairs and out into the alleyway, and looked hard into the direction he was traveling, but it was way too late. I asked forgiveness for my slothfulness and asked God if this young man really needs to hear the message that He would bring him back to me.

Friday came and right around my usual break I was working in a different unit, in the front not the back. I happened to be working right at the window, and I caught a movement and looked — it was the same young man! In shock, I hesitated for a second (literally), then dropped my tool bags and ran out the front after this young man. What do I say? I thought. What do I do? I was in my grungy work clothes, and I just ran, blurting out “Excuse me, I am working in this building and I saw you pass the other day in the alley, you were smoking a cigarette and talking to your friend, was that you?” I confirmed that it indeed was the young man I saw the other day. I started in with saying that God has a message and it is urgent for him to hear this. His eyes got real big and his countenance changed and he leaned closer to understand what I was saying.

I found out that this young man is from Saudi Arabia and is here studying at UW. He is a Muslim who had never heard of Jesus Christ before that day! I explained to Him God is Creator, Man is fallen and in great need, and the gospel of Jesus Christ and the sacrificial atonement in layman’s terms, making sure that he understood what I was saying. He asked me if he could get my phone number, and, shocked, I gave it to him. As he pulled out his iPhone it was all in Arabic, and I watched him type my info into his phone. He said that he wanted to hear more and would call me. His name is Anas; please pray for God to continue to move in his life and for salvation for him and his family. (I have not heard from him yet.)

The next morning as I was walking into work I contemplated a frightening thought. Matthew 25.32 says that God will one day separate the people who are saved from the people who are not saved. Will I see the numbers of people I knew but did not share the Gospel with as we are being separated?

Do I mourn for my sin? Do I mourn for the sin of my brothers and sisters in Christ? Do I mourn for the sin of the lost, for the sin of those who if not confronted with grace and truth will be led to condemnation and eternal conscious punishment? These thoughts sobered me and awakened me to all I have seen in the week prior, whom I had passed by without a thought toward their eternal destiny. The students hurrying off to class; the parking police busy writing tickets; the alcoholic who sleeps just outside the alley; a lady who has lost her bird and frantically comes up to me while I am waiting one morning to be let inside of the locked complex; the apartment manager who asks me nicely to be sure to clean up after I am done; not to mention the very people working beside me, such as the two plumbers who are from England, two electricians from Ukraine and Bulgaria, the general contractor, and two carpenters. God has laid the nations before us right here in the United States of America.

May we be a people who intercede for ourselves, our brothers and sisters, and the nations.

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