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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Changing Course, Making Disciples

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By Brian Sharpe

Twelve years ago I was sitting in my office and realized that I had no clue how to do my job. My proverbial “bag of tricks” that I entered into ministry with was all used up. What should I teach students? How would I train my leaders? I suddenly realized I had no real idea.

So, sitting there in my office in front of my computer, I began to search for solutions. God directed my attention to the Evangelical Free Church (EFCA) website, and I looked to see what they offered on their student ministries page. They spoke of training for youth pastors. Yes, I thought, I need fresh training.

So I contacted them and asked them about training. What happened next has been one of the most influential events that has occurred in my ministry life.

I received a call from the national director of student ministries for the Evangelical Free Church of America. We set up a training event at Elim, but beyond that, he invited me to work with a team of other youth workers to help further student ministries in the EFCA in our district.

The influence of this team has changed me in more ways than I could never express in this post. It has fanned within me a flame of desire to have others speak into my life. It put me around a table with a whole group of youth workers who had been where I was and had come out on the other side.

The effect this event has had on Elim is significant as well. Not only am I a better leader because of the people I have invited to speak into my life, but I have been challenged to ensure that disciple-making becomes at the core part of what I am about in student ministries, and in turn, what we as a church are about, as well. This focus has produced a lot of conversation among the elders, staff and ministry leaders about how we can focus on disciple-making.

Martin and Nate and I, along with the Elders, have sought to keep disciple-making a focus for us at Elim. This focus gave birth to the diagnostic tool that we are calling the Three Hands of Disciple-Making. This tool helps us evaluate the relationships in our lives, with a focus on who serves as our Pauls, our Timothys and our Barnabases.

As we have gone through this Three Hands process we have discovered that Elim can celebrate a lot of people who are investing as a Paul in others. This has led to the leadership trying to focus on helping our Pauls figure out how to be better Pauls.

We have walked this path of trying to be about disciple-making with some exceptionally helpful people. One was our district superintendent, Bruce Martin. Bruce has helped us on this journey to stay focused on helping develop people’s identity in Christ. Another is Jeff Sorvik. Jeff is leading a network called the Creo Network, which focuses on helping churches live on the mission of disciple-making. In order to be engaged in Creo you have to commit to create and execute a disciple-making vision. We have joined this network and look forward to working this disciple-making vision, not on our own but with other churches.

One of the commitments we have made in joining this network is to be engaged in a cohort group that is focused on building a leadership pipeline. Martin and I are excited to be a part of this cohort and the outcomes that could come from the investment in this cohort.

We value the input of other leaders in this process. As a church we talk about not walking alone, but living this life in community, walking with others. We are trying to model this by joining with our district leadership and inviting them into what goes on at Elim, and with joining the Creo Collective.

We are excited to see what God will do at Elim as we seek to honor Him and focus on being a disciple-making church. Elim exist to be an “oasis for renewal with God and one another.” As an oasis we seek to nurture passionate followers of Jesus. (We define a “disciple” as “a passionate follower of Jesus.”) Our heart as leaders is to nurture that passion in everyone who calls Elim “home.”

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Life on Mission

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By Brian Sharpe

Imagine being on a trip with 16 other people in two cars, traveling through 11 states in three days. Imagine the number of hours you would be in the car. Now imagine doing this with no electronics. You had music to listen to, but no cell phone or movies. That’s the trip I recently came back from. It was an amazing trip. The conference was well done. I know God was at work in the hearts and the minds of the students and leaders, and I loved watching Him do so. I am excited to see the lasting effects of this trip.

It is easy to go on trips with students and think that they are just for them. However, I needed to be open to hearing from God. I do believe He spoke and taught me a lot. This Sunday, you will hear more about what God taught me. One of the lessons I wanted to share is that if you are open to hearing from God, he will speak while you live life with others. On this trip, I watched God break down barriers. He brought students and leaders together to have conversations that were amazing. God helped the students feel connected with each other, and the key ingredient to that was time together. It was proximity.

That is something that a lot of people struggle with in the church. They feel alone. They see other people connecting and they wonder what is wrong with them. That becomes a reason why people leave churches.

I really believe the remedy for this isn’t a new church. I believe the remedy is proximity. Who are the people whom you are inviting into your sphere? Who are the people whom you are choosing to run with? We call a person like this your Barnabas. These are the people whom you live life with and live on mission with. The “on mission” is really important. Are you on a mission to point each other toward Jesus and the ways of Jesus? When we are not inviting people into our life or living on mission, we are losing out on what God has for us. We can live life with people and not be on mission and it can be good, but it will be lacking. If you live on mission alone, you will feel like no one is as committed to Jesus as you are. But when you live life with people and live on mission, you will see God at work all around you.

Living life with others is you being willing to let others into the mess of your life. They are people you would have over at a moment’s notice, even if the house is a mess. They’re the people with whom you will share the highs and lows of life. They are the people whom you are in close proximity to in life.

Being on mission means you are living in a way that is honoring to God and you are seeking to walk with others on that same journey. It doesn’t mean you are perfect at it, but it means that you are seeking to honor God in everything. You are seeking to know God and depend on Him in prayer. You seek to love others well and live your life as an act of worship. That is what it means to live on mission.

See, one of the things that the Challenge conference taught us is that we are all sent out as missionaries. We have been placed in this world for a reason, and it is to live life with others. It is to live on mission. It is to share Jesus with everyone with whom we come into contact.

So the question is, who are you living life with? Is your life focused on the mission of God?

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