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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Called To Be Sheep!

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By Bill Naron

Image courtesy University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

The other night, my wife and I began talking, and not just small talk. We were talking about the topic of service. I know, so typical, let’s talk about service the week going into Thanksgiving. Well, give me just a few moments to be super cliché. So, back to my wife (Sam) and my discussion, which went super late into the night. We talked about what it may look like to begin to try to infuse attitudes of service into the fabric of our family. So, wouldn’t you know that after this conversation my biblical character calendar would be talking about hospitality/service, and I would stumble upon a story in one of my favorite blogs about a family who began serving together. I just have not been able to stop thinking about this topic!

Mark 10:45 (KJV) says, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” It says that Jesus Himself came to this earth to minister, or serve. He did not need to be served, but was sent to us to serve us people who were not worthy, people who were undeserving. He came to meet us in the place that we were in, no matter where that was. This makes me think of how every morning I drive down Portland Avenue, and it comes to a point where the road goes under an overpass of I-5. At this point, at any given point in time, there are numerous homeless people, and it just seems that more and more are filling the area day after day.

As a passionate follower of Jesus who desires to grow and change to be more and more like my Father and less like the world, I believe we must pull back the curtains and examine our hearts. I get the hindrances; there is just not enough time—we have soccer, piano, violin, and the list go on. Maybe we just do not feel called to do so, it is not in our ability, or maybe we feel it poses a lot of risk and danger. But Jesus Himself says that even He did not come to be served but to serve. And 1 Peter 4:10 says that with the gifts we received we should serve others.

If I am a passionate follower of Jesus, serving those around me is my calling, serving those in need is in my abilities, meeting people where they are at and serving and giving is something that is commanded of me! For Sam and me, the discussion has been, What would be a practical application of serving and a way that we can speak this core piece of the gospel to those around us? I believe that this is what needs to be done, especially if you have a family with small children. Find simple, practical things that can be done, such as making up care bags to keep in your car to give to those in need as you cross paths with them.

The next thing that was a huge epiphany for me was that I need to be willing to help and give to anyone who expresses a need, not expecting anything in return. It means that homeless guy on the side of the road. It does not matter what he does with what I give him; what matters is my heart in giving it to him. We are called to give and to serve and to not worry about receiving thanks or about whether they are really in need of it or not. Jesus served us, and we did not do anything to deserve it, and by that He set the example for how we are to serve.

In Matthew it talks about the Father separating the sheep from the goats in the end; He says to the sheep that when He was hungry, they fed Him, and when He was naked, they clothed Him, and when He was a stranger, they took Him in. To the goats He says to depart away from Him, for they did not do these things. And when the righteous asked when they had seen Him in these states, He said that what was done to the least of his brothers was done also to Him.

The challenge I see before us is this: if we view people through the eyes of a loving and caring Savior, then whatever service we do unto them, we are also doing unto Him, out of obedience to Him, and out of an abundance of love for our Father. So, the question is, Are we going to be sheep or are we going to be goats?

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Living and Leaving a Legacy

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By Beau Leaman

What do you get when you add up the following?

  • monthly Jeep cruises
  • shooting guns
  • telling scary Sasquatch stories
  • a yearly men’s retreat at Evergreen Bible Presbyterian Church
  • a website with the exact coordinates of Noah’s ark
  • driving down the freeway with the blinker on
  • teaching children the Greek alphabet
  • pointing and shooting a gun at a kitchen table to see if it’s loaded
  • lip-syncing worship songs because people lost their place in the song
  • helping me put my flipped jeep right-side up
  • the love of God

What do you get? My dear friend Edward Crawford.

Psalm 99:6-7 says: “Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel was among those who called on his name; they called on the Lord and he answered them. He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud; they kept his statutes and the decrees he gave them.”

This week, as I was processing through Psalm 99, I realized that these men — Moses, Aaron, and Samuel — all lived a legacy. A legacy that David remembered. A legacy that David found worthy to write about. These men lived lives faithful to God. Their faithfulness reached beyond just their own generation. Each of their lives was such a powerful testimony, a legacy reaching down generation to generation, touching a whole nation. Their testimonies taught others that obedience, faithfulness, and a relationship with God is not only vital, but is who we are.

Edward Crawford died a few years ago; the cause of his death was unknown. It is a mystery how a man in good health and full of energy, a man who had just climbed Mt. Ararat, could pass away suddenly and without warning. I truly believe my dear friend had great love for his Savior and had made it his mission on earth to proclaim that love. He made it his purpose to shout God’s glory and ensure all around him knew God’s faithfulness. Although my friend didn’t finish what he had started on earth, God decided it was time to take him home, ending his life on his earth. But one thing Edward did leave was his legacy.

We’re not given the exact time Christ is coming back, or when our lives here will end. I continue to go back and look at the life of my friend because I desire what he had. I desire the way he would communicate with Jesus. I desire the way he knew God’s Word. In thinking about his legacy, I wonder what kind of legacy I am living today. How will I finish the race? How am I impacting my neighbors, coworkers, community, and friends in an intentional, purpose-driven, and Christ-centered way? My hope is that I leave a living legacy even after I have left this earth.

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Refugees of the Eastern Congo

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Written by Nubako Selega and posted by Cal Kierum

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Greetings from me and my family here in Kinshasa! Undoubtedly, some of you have been following the news of the situation in eastern Congo. As a bit of background, since 1990 and the fall of President Mobutu, a former President of DR Congo, our country has frequently been involved in wars that have affected numerous people in different areas of our country. Because of that there are many related problems.

About six months ago, in May 2012, some people in eastern DR Congo, just north of Kivu, which lies along the Rwandan border, became victims of this fighting and in need of immediate assistance. One of the rebellions in that area was begun by a group called M23. They began fighting with the Congolese army and eventually took control of a portion of eastern DR Congo. After three weeks of fighting they then seized the city of Goma. In response to both national and international pressure, the group agreed to pull out of Goma on November 30.

The fighting in eastern DR Congo has created over 700,000 refugees, all situated around the Goma area. Most of them live in refugee camps while others have gone to live with extended family members. A single camp can have as many as 40,000-60,000 refugees. Other people have fled to Rwanda. For those who are refugees, living outside is horrible. They are subjected to the sun and rain. They have no medical assistance. There are no toilets. There is no food. Those who are most affected by this are the children who fall sick and have no medical care, no medicine and often, no one to care for them.

Churches, NGOs and humanitarian organizations are doing their best to assist, but the needs are immense, especially for food and medicine. The Church of Christ in DR Congo (ECC), directs 67 different protestant denominations in DR Congo and I have been working with them to assist them in training church planters and youth workers. They are also helping minister to the needs of the people in the east through a ministry called Crisis Refugee Assistance; however, what they are able to provide is entirely insufficient.

I am sharing this with you today first, so that you will pray for these people in eastern DR Congo. I also ask you to consider helping with food and medicine. I am convinced that sending assistance to these people through this ministry of the ECC will do great good. I believe that this demonstration of the love of God to these people in this time of need could bring many to faith in Jesus Christ.

Just this morning, I spoke with a pastor who lives there. He is a friend of mine and came to the training this past summer given to us by Life International on the sanctity of human life. He shared with me that people are now selling their clothing and household goods to help buy food and medicine for those in need.

Donations to assist with this effort may be made to: Africa Crisis Relief – Account #3988
Online – www.EFCA.org
By mail – EFCA ReachGlobal, 901 E. 78th St., Minneapolis, MN  55420

Together for His Kingdom!
Nubako Selenga
Director, ReachAfrica
+243 81 71 77 630
+243 99 73 30 663
Skype: Selengan
E-mail: Nubako.Selenga@efca.org
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo

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From missions to holistic outreach

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by Dan Amos

For many years Elim’s ministries outside the walls of our building have been growing and changing. It began with enabling missionaries to go to foreign lands and spread the gospel, but is rapidly becoming a ministry of personal involvement for our people. This is partly because the face of missionaries is changing; countries once served by Western missionaries are now sending out their own, some even to the United States and also partly because the need in our own community is so great.

As the missions team and the Elder Board have been seeking to adapt and serve in the new environment, we have been placing a greater emphasis on our personal action and growth in sharing the good news and serving others. Several years ago the Elder Board directed the missions team to begin the process of evaluating supported missionaries for effectiveness in reaching unreached people groups and ways in which we can partner with them and emphasizing short term missions as a means of growing our people in the process.

We can see this in the Democratic Republic of Congo where we have already sent two teams in life-changing experiences for our people and real support to the ministry in the Congo which is on the frontline of reaching unreached peoples. Rich and Marla Henderson and Ernest Dyck both have recently shared how we can partner with them in the future, potentially tying in with the Congo, too.

Last year, two missions we had previously supported discontinued their ministries such that we discontinued financial support. This has been part of the process of refocusing our limited financial resources towards partnership ministries and unreached peoples. With this has come a name change to Holistic Outreach and efforts to organize and connect locally. Last year we supported a local ministry in Bill Bowers who helped connect Elim with local compassion and outreach opportunities.

This coming year we are proposing to take a giant leap. We are in the process of finalizing the 2012 budget and you will see a number of changes. The first change is to rename “Missions” to “Holistic Outreach” and to move it to the ministries section of the budget. In the past it had been a separate part of the budget and symbolically it was not part of Elim’s ministries.

Support for the Herrs, whose ministry is supporting AWANA, is being moved from the Holistic Outreach section to the Children’s Ministries section under the AWANA line item. This better reflects our partnership with the Herrs. The Holistic Outreach team began the process of thinking through these changes in discussions with Linda Sauke who helped the team shape actions including redirecting support for her, Bill Bowers, and the Glenhaven Youth Ranch in Arkansas to local outreach efforts.

This is being achieved by partially funding an internship for a Holistic Outreach Director. Stan Peterson is completing ministry training and is seeking ordination through the Evangelical Free Church. This is a fairly rigorous process and requires candidates to be in full-time ministry of at least 32 hours a week. We are proposing in the 2012 budget to support this position with $7,500. Additional support, just like the other missionaries we support, is being raised independently.

In this position, Stan will lead and equip Elim’s people in the Holistic Outreach ministry. We will be saying much more about this in coming weeks and are planning an informational meeting on Holistic Outreach for October 23 after the Sunday morning worship service.

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