I Am Not … the Hero!

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By Pastor Martin Schlomer

Over the years some people have given me certain gifts and various “titles.” One couple gave me a Superman cape because they said I projected the image of a caped crusader on a mission to rescue people and save the world! Another individual calls me Father Martin. She says, “I am like a father to Elim.” These tell a story, a perception that I can fix things, make things happen. I can see why.

In January 1994, when I was 33 years old, I flew to the Northwest to interview with Elim for this position of Senior Pastor. I was full of hope and personal expectations that I would do great things for Elim! I was eager to make necessary changes, see the church grow, and reach the lost. The church wanted the same. I believed I could make it happen. (Looking back, there was a lot of personal ego tied to achieving these outcomes!) On February 13, this small congregation cast their votes, and on April 1, 1994, we arrived in Puyallup. Such were the aspirations of a young man who wanted to be the hero.

Over the past 22 years — especially 2015 and 2016 — my Father has shown me that I’m NOT the hero in this story! My limitations have been exposed. My Father has confronted my sinful ego. I am learning to accept that I do not have the power to change a person’s heart with persuasive arguments, to heal a person’s wounds with empathy and prayers, to persuade a person to do what they do not want to do, to raise money, to build new buildings, or even to fix a broken toilet. That’s right: I’m no hero!

The important news is, I’m okay with this now. For me, 2016 was all about trying to let go of ropes that tied me to my dysfunctional expectations.

Seven Priorities for 2017

In 2017, what can you expect from me as your Senior Pastor? What do I hope for in 2017? First, I will work to do my part to shepherd and equip people (through personal growth, prayer, preaching, leading and discipling) to be passionate disciples of Jesus who make passionate disciples of Jesus. Every person has a role to play. Every person is called by Jesus to invest in this one mission: be a disciple who makes disciples. No exceptions! No excuses! We are like rivers of gospel-motivated grace, changing the landscape, not reservoirs where we gather to simply enjoy the company of others to meet our own needs.

Second, I will continue to develop those who are discipling others at Elim. We call them our “Pauls.” We will meet on a quarterly basis to strategize and problem solve issues and challenges they experience as they take on this important role of making disciples.

Third, I will get involved in reaching out to those who are lost in our community. I will do this by becoming a court-appointed special advocate (CASA), working with the Department of Social and Human Services (DSHS). It is my strong desire to bring the heart and hope of our Father to those who are in very dark and desperate circumstances. It is my desire that this will be the heart of Elim as well. For this to happen, I must lead by example.

Fourth, I will work with a team of people who will facilitate a process to help victims of sexual abuse. One in five men and one in three women suffer from the trauma and shame of sexual abuse. It is our desire to help them begin their redemptive journey toward personal health and wholeness.

Fifth, I will continue to partner with Brian Sharpe and our staff, with the Elders and the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA), to develop a leadership development pipeline. This development process will apply to all ministries across the board. It will implement the steps a person needs to follow to be developed and coached as a leader. To accomplish this, Elim is a part of a cohort of churches being trained and held accountable to implement this process. It is an exciting, yet challenging, yearlong development process.

Sixth, I will step back from working with the Stewardship Team and empower them to take a more proactive approach not just to monitor Elim’s finances, but also to communicate with the congregation our financial position and strategize how to meet Elim’s future financial needs, especially regarding our campus needs. At some point, soon, Elim must replace the building known as the “Youth House,” which is also used for MOPs and Oasis Kids. It gets a lot of use, even though it is well past its original intended end-of-life date.

And finally, I will step back from overseeing property and build a team of people to oversee and care for our facilities and landscaping. We need people to prune, weed, trim bushes, clean gutters, mow grass, etc. There is no shortage of opportunities for people to serve, even just a couple of hours every month. How we care for our property is an indication of how much we value what we do on this strategic corner for the 50,000+ people who drive by daily.

Four Things I Hope for From You

In 2017, what do I expect from those who consider Elim to be their church home?

First, join in this journey of growing as a passionate follower of Jesus who nurtures passionate followers of Jesus. (Be a disciple who makes disciples!) Jesus has a fierce commitment to our joining Him on this transformational journey.

Second, ask our Father to develop your heart to reach out to those who are lost. I hope that we will hear you tell your stories of how our Father is using you to influence the landscape of another person’s life.

Third, use the talents our Father has given you to serve the needs of His Church, both within these walls and beyond. The heart of Jesus is not that we will be served, but that we will serve others.

Fourth, give generously to meet the needs and commitments of this Body so that we might fulfill our purpose to nurture passionate followers of Jesus who nurture passionate followers of Jesus in South Hill and beyond.

I close with what I shared on Sunday morning, January 15, 2017. Jesus didn’t come to live the life of a servant, die the death of a savior, rise from the dead as a victor, and indwell us with the power of His Holy Spirit, all so that we might just GO TO CHURCH! He lived the life of a servant, died the death of a savior, rose from the dead as a victor, and indwells us with the power of His Holy Spirit SO THAT we might BE THE CHURCH! Amen?

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Compelled to Action

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By Brian Sharpe

Over the years there have been themes that God has brought out through teaching or experience. On the Evangelical Free Church ReachStudents ministry team I serve on, in staff meetings, in training seminars, and just as God teaches me through His Word, He has been calling me to intentional living. The problem is, it is easy getting caught up in what needs to be done immediately — the tyranny of the urgent. You think, “If I don’t do it, then no one else will.”

I am a doer. I like being a doer. I will help in most situations. If a storage room needs cleaned out, I will help. Pastor Martin often says I need to focus. This is a part of intentional living: having in mind the things that are important so you will focus on them, doing everything in your power to stay on track and accomplish the “big rocks” (most important to-do items) in your ministry and life.

As a believer in Jesus, in life and ministry I have two main foci that need to rule everything I do: the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Jesus was asked the question, “What is the greatest commandment?” His response summarizes the most important thing that you and I can do with our lives. There is no bigger rock in life or ministry.

“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22:37-40)

These verses should form the basis for our everyday intentionality as believers. They should be what we live for, what makes us tick. When we build our lives around them, our hearts and lives will change. We will be different.

What defines you? What are your “big rocks”? If we desire to live intentionally, we will ask these kinds of questions. Then we will be compelled to action. That’s where we need to be. We need to be moved from being hearers of the Word to being effectual does of the Word. This goes along with the beatitudes. When we live as God calls us to live in the beatitudes, action will result. James 2:18 says that others will see our faith by what we do. We are saved by faith, but that faith compels us to action. I know I have a long way to go to live intentionally, but I need to start the process. I need to ask the questions and allow the answers to shape the way I live.

A couple years ago I was listening to a sermon. This statement the pastor made will stick with me for the rest of my life: the way we live shows us who is on the throne of our life. So, once again, what defines you? What are your “big rocks”? Knowing what your “big rocks” are will help you see who or what is on the throne of your life. Take time this next week and ask yourself these questions. Evaluate how you are living and be compelled to action.

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I Want to Waste My Time

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By Jeff Foerster

My work is focused, my attention is directed, and my clicks are precise. Each image and each caption is carefully read and logged in my short-term memory for comparative purposes. I can easily track my progress toward my endgame, as all are ranked in order of speed. So there I am, dedicated to the task of researching and compiling data crucial to, uh, something or other. There is just enough peripheral information to keep me interested and moving forward, onward toward that approaching goal of uncovering the one — the fastest aircraft in the world! I wade through differing builders and differing sponsoring countries. When a Russian variety makes the list I feel a small sense of competition building, until that plane is superseded by an American aircraft. Then, as this is revealed before my eyes, nationalism is renewed and patriotism stirs within me. I, as an American, am back on top — a victor once more. And all I had to do was click on a slideshow built for the selling of advertisements. Then, something unforeseen took place.

Just below the image of plane number 12, a banner appeared. In a rectangular box plain text spread from left to right across the screen. Unencumbered by decoration, the displayed message was clear: I WANT TO WASTE MY TIME. This is not good advertising. There was no flashy imaging or scrolling text to garner my attention. It didn’t make promises of fulfillment or happiness, however temporal. It didn’t intrigue my curiosity with intellectual ponderings. Nothing of the sort. In fact, the message comes close to being insulting.

Yet I was stunned by this most simple, monochromatic missive. The words before me became almost audible. You see, I had spoken to someone the night before this odd occurrence and revealed to them that I thought God was opening my eyes to how I spend the time He has given me. Lips slightly parted and brows raised, I sat there, staring, then reading and rereading the text to make sure my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me. I felt exposed, like just becoming aware I had been watched for an indeterminable amount of time. I may have laughed or just shaken my head, though I don’t recall. This had to be one of the bluntest, timeliest messages I have ever received in all my years.

I am not about to delve into concepts of synchronicity or weigh in on the idea that “there are no coincidences.” I will not meander down rabbit trails or set the stage for doctrinal dissertation. What I will do is remind myself and declare to you that each day is precious because it is a gift that our God and Father gives us to unwrap as the day itself unfolds. Each day provides opportunity to take a stand and praise our Maker. How I choose to spend the time given to me declares my priorities, my values, and my loves.

What are you going to do with the time given to you? Who, or what, will it declare that you love?

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