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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From One Traveler to Another

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By Brian Sharpe

Have you ever had an “a-ha” moment while at a class or at a conference? I get them, more often than I think I should. I’d like to think it is because I am teachable and not because I need things spelled out for me by someone who gets it more than I do. Martin and I went to Minneapolis to the national office of the Evangelical Free Church (EFCA) a few weeks ago. It was a great time for he and I to meet with other pastors who are trying to lead their churches on a disciple-making journey. It is nice to know that we are involved with other churches that are trying to figure out how to lead this.

It is crazy to think that this journey is a 2,000-year journey and we are still trying to figure it out. You would think by now that we would know better how to make disciples more effectively and efficiently. I guess, in a perfect world, it would be. The reason we are still trying to figure this out is because it is a bunch of fallen human beings leading other fallen human beings on a journey toward the infinite God. The thing that gets in the way is not just how sinful we are, but also the lack of tenacity we have to take this journey with others.

This journey is not an easy one. It is one that is full of twists and turns. The journey is full of unexpected ups and downs. I think one of the main “ups” is success in life. Success is what we search for in life, but I am not sure we understand what success is. Success in our culture means that we make a living wage. We have a nice house. We have kids who will obey. Success is when we are comfortable and potentially happy. I am not sure this is the success that God talks about in the Bible.

Success in the Bible is fully trusting in God for contentment and joy. It is resting in God for your identity. Too often, we find our identity in what we have or what people think of us instead of on what our heavenly Father has said about us. We lose sight of this because of our success or what we feel is success.

For me, how I define success is that I have been faithful to God on this journey toward Him. Success would be that I can point others to Jesus and everyone that I am around would be marked by God through the presence He has in my life. That, to me, is success, and ultimately what I want to pass on to those I invest my life in. Nothing else matters.

Whether in abundance or in want, I want to find my contentment and strength in Christ. I believe that what is what Paul is talking about in Philippians 4. From one disciple to another on the same journey toward our Father in Heaven, let’s focus on God’s definition of success — to find our contentment and identity in Him, and not in what the world defines as success.

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