Pass the Baton or the Remote?

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By Beau Leaman

God has a sense of humor with these things. As I began to write this I violently choked on the glass of water I was drinking. Self-examining my heart is often difficult, but when writing about a subject like this it is intriguing the way the Spirit nudges oneself to examine their heart before talking on specific subjects. Oftentimes I have a sense that the closer I get to Jesus Christ, the more the enemy wants to turn up the heat. Living our lives in bold action is a dangerous and risky lifestyle. At the end of day we all attend the track meet, but some choose to run the race, while others choose to be spectators.

One of my favorite passages comes from 1 Corinthians 9:22-23. It says, “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” Paul lived his life through confidence in the power and truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul knew what it meant to draw near to God, and be a fisher of men. Today, we have an even greater gift in the life-giving nature of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit walks with us to conquer our greatest fears, and all too often His power is forgotten. Tertullian said, “The Lord challenges us to suffer persecutions and to confess him. He wants those who belong to him to be brave and fearless. He himself shows how weakness of the flesh is overcome by courage of the Spirit. This is the testimony of the apostles and in particular of the representative, administrating Spirit. A Christian is fearless.”

Part of Elim’s Mission Statement is too know, grow, and go. These three keys all go in succession. When we know God we will grow. When we grow we will want to go. There is an important key here that I want to communicate. We cannot pass the baton on the couch, and passing the baton is not the first step. The first step is knowing and drawing near to God. We do this by loving Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. How do we do this? We pray, we read his Word, we involve ourselves in life-giving community, and we cling to Ephesians 2:8-9. Through this process God begins to open our eyes and rip off the calluses, and we begin to have encounters with God.

Passing the baton must be a work of the Spirit. In John 14:17, it says, “the Spirit dwells in you, and will be with you.” Also, in Mark 13:11, it says the Spirit helps us speak in difficult situations. J.I. Packer says, “The Christian’s life in all aspects—intellectual and ethical, devotional and relational, upsurging in worship and outgoing in witness—is supernatural; only the Spirit can initiate and sustain it. So apart from Him, not only will there be no lively believers and no lively congregations, there will be no believers and no congregations at all.” The Spirit bears witness to the fact that we are sons and daughters of the Most High. We receive our boldness from the Spirit and He walks with us in our most difficult circumstances. To pass the baton, whether it be in the mundane or the crazy, we must draw near to God and fight for what Paul found most precious, the furtherance of the Kingdom and the fellowship of the saints. May we trust God in our encounters with others, live life in bold action, and answer in a firm “YES” when the Spirit beckons on this day, and forevermore.

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Being an Effectual Doer

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By Brian Sharpe

The first weekend of this month was our annual men’s retreat. We have been doing this version of our men’s retreat for the past 12 years, and it is one of my favorite event to participate with. I believe this year’s men’s retreat was one of the best we’ve had.

The reason I believe this year was one of the best is because of how I was challenged. I always love seeing the guys talk, laugh, and play games together. I always love hearing a room full of guys singing praises to our Maker. I usually enjoy the speakers. This year I learned from and was challenged by each of the sessions, especially the first, when Mike Verdonk spoke against passivity. He talked about how, for guys, passivity comes naturally because it is a product of the Fall. Adam modeled it and we all learned it.

I came from the retreat and was really challenged by the areas of passivity I saw in my life. The first morning I was back home we had to get the older kids up for school. My wife is great about getting up with them. No one in our house is a morning person (except for maybe Joel), so mornings can be stressful. Well, that Monday seemed to be a particularly stressful morning. I laid in bed and was listening to the morning unfold when suddenly I realized—I could help the situation. This was a good idea, in theory, until I started to act on my plan. The problem was I should have engaged a lot sooner, and it would have helped everyone involved, even myself. I waited too long and my stress level and the rest of the stress level in the house was too high. I reacted poorly and had a mess to clean up. This all started because of my selfish reaction to the morning. It really stinks (and is nice) when you get challenged and have to act on what you were challenged on. I needed to apologize to my wife and my kids, and I also realized I have to be more engaged in the mornings.  

How often do we hear a message and think “this is something I needed to hear” and do nothing with the information given? James 1:22-23 tell us to not be just a hearer of the Word, but an effectual doer. We live in a country where we are able to hear as many messages as we want each day from as many different speaks as we like. We are not lacking on teaching; where we can lack is in the execution of what God is teaching us through these individuals and messages. I don’t know how many times I have gone to the men’s retreat, church, or any other event and heard a great message and have done nothing with the information that was given, that I had needed to hear and implement in my life. I need to be an effectual doer!   

One practice that helps me is, when we are done hearing a message, we ask “What is one takeaway I want to implement?”  See, I think we sometimes get bogged down with all the changes we want to make, then we don’t make any of them because we can get overwhelmed. This practice of taking away one thing is helpful because then I can focus my time and energy on one area verses many. At this point I am focused on asking the question,
“Where am I passive when I should be engaged?” This is a result of what God is doing in me based on what I learned at the men’s retreat. If you were to ask yourself the question, “What is one thing God is teaching me?”, what would you say? 

Whenever we hear a message we need to ask “What is one thing God is trying to teach me?” We need to seek to be effectual doers, not just hears. God is always working in us; the question is, “Are we willing to act on what He is teaching us to do?” 

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What Does It All Mean?

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By Dan Amos

“I’m not sure you know who we are,” I said to our visiting district superintendent. He had come to help the Elder Board process leadership and direction for the new year. I’d just set the stage for him with where we had come from in the last couple of years and where I think we are heading, particularly in organizing for the growth we’ve been blessed with. Instead of staying on the topic of attendance, however, he challenged us to forget about all that and focus on making disciples.

Discipleship has been an emphasis at Elim, but it hasn’t been directly talked about as much recently. Instead, I see it practiced in the actions of people like Beau, Shauna, Dave, Fran, Bob, Jackie, Stan, and so many others. But, in processing it with the Elder Board, it was clear we still don’t have a unified vision of what it means.

Is discipleship a formal process of mentor and mentee meeting together for Bible study and prayer? Or can discipleship also mean processing life together with fellow believers, seeking wisdom, encouragement, challenge, and rebuke in the context of biblical truth? Is it building on the teaching we receive when we come together corporately and in small groups? Can it be all of these things and more?

At the annual meeting, we as a body will wrestle with practical application of discipleship and cast a vision for infusing it throughout Elim. We’ll also consider what this looks like as we meet the challenge of growth that we’ve been given. Whether you’re a member or new to Elim, come join us on January 27. It will be a great time in the life of our church.

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Hiding in Plain Sight

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By Dan Amos

“I’m fine. How are you?” How often do I hide behind that response? Sometimes I give it because the truth is too complicated, it would take too long to give. Other times I just don’t feel like talking or the truth is something I don’t want to share with that person or at that time. I suppose I’m comfortable with that. The danger comes when I tell everyone “fine” and don’t let anyone know who I am.

Perpetual hiding flies in the face of our mission, vision, and purpose as a church body. Our church family is to be an oasis, a place outside of the facelessness of the world, a place where we can be safe to share who we are. It’s to be an oasis for renewal with God and one another. God has structured his Church in the context of community, interdependent on each other for growth and support. And we certainly can’t be about the one-anothers of Scripture if we hide who we are.

Our vision is to build disciples. Discipleship is a personal experience shared in community. There are teachers and leaders and there are disciples. Everyone in Elim should be learning from someone. Even our senior pastor has relationships where he lets people in to the grittiness of his life. Actually Pastor Martin is a tremendous example for me of a humble servant leader who battles well by being honest and open with trusted and appropriate people on the details and with all of us on the big picture of his life.

Lastly, our purpose is to Know God, Grow Together, and Go and Serve. We can’t grow together if we’re a bunch of superficial strangers and our service is hindered if we stay hidden to each other.

It is scary to let people in. And we have to learn to share in appropriate ways and appropriate settings. There are people I can and do let in and amazingly enough they don’t run screaming from the room or laugh at me or think less of me. I have a long ways to go, but an authentic relationship is worth so much more than a fake one. And that is one of the reasons why I love Elim so much. You are a gift from God to me.

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Grace, grace, incredible grace

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by Dan Amos

A few years ago, I was walking to church and passed by a small classical Greek-type statue thrown from a vehicle. I kept walking but the statue’s head caught my attention and I had to turn around and pick it up. I had been thinking about the direction life seemed to be taking and the debris of a replica statue from a failed civilization was something I couldn’t just pass by. It was a year or so later that I was given the opportunity to take an extended, unpaid vacation. I felt my change coming; surely that civilization felt change coming, too.

Now, I feel the change at Elim as we grow in numbers. Things are different and that can be unsettling. There are more new people than I can get to know. I think it is great that there are so many people coming together to worship and work out our faith together in community, but the social side of me wants to get to know everyone and I can’t. (Read more about church growth stress.)

I also sense issues percolating beneath the surface that need to be addressed. The difficulty is they often don’t appear until someone is frustrated to the point of giving up. This is where we can help each other cope with the change. The first step to resolving an issue is in knowing the issue exists. Tell someone who can make a change or point you to that person.

But the most important thing is grace, lots and lots of grace, both given and received. In the “Love and Respect” seminar, the speaker asserts in most cases our spouse is “a good-willed person” and good-willed people can still try one’s patience. As we grow and change, most of our frustrations are going to be caused by good-willed people and with communication and grace we’ll get through this and thrive. I am always thankful for the grace extended to me by my Elim family. It is desperately needed!

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Growth: Embracing the challenges and the opportunities

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by Martin Schlomer

If you hang around on Sunday mornings for very long, it won’t take long to notice that this group of God’s people is rapidly changing and growing. There are a lot of new people representing all generations and backgrounds!

Growth always raises new opportunities and challenges. One of the challenges we currently face is financial. Let me assure you, finances have remained stable even in the midst of a very difficult economy. As of last Sunday, September 18, our giving is only $300 behind budget! Considering that we are just coming out of the summer months, this is incredible! Thank you for your faithfulness!!! However, even though our spending is only $1,800 over budget as of August 31, the pressures on spending are mounting. These pressures are due to expanding ministry demands — which are to be expected with the growth — as well as numerous property issues.

This summer, we built a new shed to replace the one that was literally falling down. We also poured a larger porch on the north entrance to help keep people from falling off the smaller one that was there. We replaced the roof on the annex to avoid the kind of major leaks we had last year.

There are several property issues that we still need to address.

  • We need to repair the septic system at the Youth House which is currently inoperable. The cost will be $1800.
  • We need to replace the stove in the kitchen to accommodate Freezing Nights, KidReach and various other ministries. The estimated cost will be $1100.
  • We are starting a food pantry over in the Youth House to accommodate the needs of Freezing Nights and MOPS which means we needs shelves to store the supplies on. In addition, MOPS would like to have a sink and counter space in the Youth House to prepare snacks for their meetings. The estimated cost is $1000.
  • We are in need of a projector screen for the front of the sanctuary to make it easier for people to see the words for the music and sermon notes. This has become more evident as we seat people further back into the fellowship area. The estimated cost is $800.

These are exciting times at Elim, but how will we meet these needs? On October 2, we will receive a special offering following Communion. Our goal is to raise $5000 over and above our normal offering to cover these needs.

We realize that these are difficult economic times for most. Please seek the Lord regarding how He would have you contribute, and please continue to pray for the health and growth of Christ’s body. My goal, along with the Elders’, is to make sure we glorify Christ in our leadership of this church and in the shepherding of your lives. This is of the utmost importance!

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