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by Cindy Waple


The Difference Between Attending and Belonging

Assimilation may be a big word, but it simply means successfully integrating people into a new environment. For Elim, “assimilation” means welcoming newcomers with the love of Christ and providing a process to become active members of our community — where they can know God, grow with others in Christ and go and serve South Hill and beyond.

As the Strategic Planning Team discerned our five strategic objectives for the next 1-5 years (communication, assimilation, spiritual transformation, community, and holistic outreach), we affirmed the importance of making every visitor feel welcome and having a process in place where newcomers can move from simply attending Elim to actually belonging as vital, functioning members of our community. This process includes not just greeting, but following up with visitors; introducing them to leadership at Elim and providing opportunities to learn about Elim’s vision and mission; assessing spiritual gifting and strengths; helping them join small group communities where they can continue to grow in Christ; and facilitating them serving in ministries that are in line with their gifting and calling.

For visitors who have not received Christ, we want to provide every opportunity for them not just to hear the Gospel and learn about Christ, but also to experience His love and grace through the body at Elim.

Much of what happens around assimilation is already taking place within Elim: visitors are greeted and engaged by the leaders and members as well as invited to small groups, Bible studies, Pulse, etc. However, the assimilation ministry will provide an intentional process to engage visitors and newcomers, ensuring that every visitor receives a proper welcome.

Mark and Barb McCullough have graciously agreed to lead this important ministry and are looking for those who would like to join them as this ministry forms. If you feel called to this ministry we invite you to contact Mark and Barb.

We are excited about the assimilation ministry that is forming! However, it is important to note that each of us has a role to play. We all have the responsibility of welcoming visitors when we see them on Sunday morning, and reaching out to them, perhaps even inviting them to your small group or Bible study. As we share Christ’s love with newcomers and welcome them into the community at Elim, not only will we see lives touched and transformed by God’s Spirit, but we also will be transformed.

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By Larry Short

Have you ever wondered why John 1 refers to Jesus Christ as “The Word?” That’s a very unusual way to describe Someone, when you think about it.

I suspect that in calling Christ “The Word,” John is giving us an important clue as to the nature of God. He is telling us that it is in God’s nature to reveal, to express Himself to His creation, to communicate. Christ is the “image of the invisible God.” As we gaze upon Jesus, we come to understand what God is like. He is God’s expression or communication of His nature to us.

Communication is extremely important to our lives, to our survival, to our health and happiness. Through communication we experience the world around us and come to understand our purpose.

As the Strategy Team was considering how to move our church toward the vision God has for us, we recognized the important role that accurate, timely, and compelling communication would play in achieving our goals. Hence effective communication became the first of five key objectives we decided would require focus in our five-year plan.

In order to identify and achieve key SMART goals within the first year, we have formed a team comprised of our webmaster, Dan Amos, our associate pastor, Brian Sharpe, our church secretary, Julie Pace, and myself. This team has begun meeting and working on a number of SMART goals, including:

  • Devising and conducting a survey of our membership to better understand how effective our current communications efforts are, and how we could develop more effective communications efforts.
  • Evaluate and enhance our church’s web presence (including homepage and Facebook) to communicate more effectively.
  • Evaluate other forms of communication, such as our email newsletter, pulpit and audiovisual communications, printed brochures, and signage.
  • Explore new avenues of communication made possible by recent technologies (such as text messaging and social networking platforms).

What is a SMART goal? It is one that is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Ministry leaders will be setting SMART goals for each of the five objective areas: Communication, Assimilation, Community, Spiritual Transformation, and Holistic Outreach.

In upcoming Last Words, we will dig into each of the remaining four objectives separately. So, if you are interested in how “assimilation” will make a lasting impact on the life of our church, tune in next week!

In the meantime, I want to leave you with two thoughts about effective communication:

  1. It is redundant. Different types of communication affects different people differently. In our church the pulpit is a key tool of effective communication. But we employ other forms of communication as well to support the message we are seeking to communicate. We encourage you to avail yourself of all the tools we are seeking to create in order to communicate effectively.
  2. It is two-way. Accurate communication depends on willingness to both give and receive feedback. Without feedback, we might assume we’ve communicated something well; but the person to whom we have “communicated” has no idea what we’ve been trying to convey. Please bless those who lead the various ministries at our church by providing them with constructive and timely feedback.

We’d love to hear your feedback about the direction that our church is going, about our vision and strategy. What questions do you have? How is God working the “KNOW, GROW, GO” vision into your life? Please share your thoughts on email or talk with any elder.

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GO and serve, South Hill and beyond!

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By Larry Short

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to “Your God reigns!” Isa. 52:7

If our mission statement were only the first two lines, which we’ve covered in this space the last three weeks … KNOW God, GROW together in Christ … as important as those are, it would be woefully incomplete. We would be ignoring the purpose which God has created us to achieve! This coming weekend Pastor Martin is preaching on the following portion of the Lord’s prayer: Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

It’s clear from Christ’s final instructions in Matthew 28 that “going and making disciples” is ultimately how God will fulfill this prayer of Christ’s. Without disciples making disciples in each generation, the Kingdom will decline rather than advance.

As the Strategy Team was crafting this new vision statement, we debated many different words that we could have chosen for the third line of the statement. Here is why we chose the words we did:

GO – We cannot simply sit on our duffs in our comfy church, waiting for potential disciples to come to us. That’s never been how it works in God’s economy. He’s always moved His Church outward … into Jerusalem (the community around us), (neighboring regions outside our comfort zone), and then, ultimately, to the uttermost ends of the earth – WAY outside our comfort zone! “Going” is about taking action: using our feet and moving out. We must be both strategic and urgent about how we are going to move into our community and beyond. At Elim, one key way we do that is through our Outreach and Missions team, led by Dr. Cal Kierum, and through the teams they support. We as a church really need to ramp up our involvement in these teams! If you can’t find a team that fits what you feel God is calling you to do … start one! And if you feel God calling you to be more involved in shaping the growth of this ministry, talk to Cal about serving on the leadership team.

SERVE – In recent Christian history there has been much emphasis placed on proclamation. But proclamation is just one part of Christ’s strategy. Christ was sent to the earth, humbling Himself, as a suffering servant. He modeled and demonstrated servanthood as the primary way we should express God’s love for the people around us. We have focused on the word “serve” in our vision statement not to say that there should not also be proclamation (for telling the truth to someone who needs and is prepared to hear it is indeed serving them), but to recognize that service is the key way that we will build relationships in our community and beyond, and win a hearing for the Gospel, raising questions (such as, “Why do you love like this?”) to which Jesus alone is the answer.

SOUTH HILL and BEYOND – The holistic nature of our target audience is reflected in this statement. We are to bear witness both locally and globally, just as the first Christians were called to do the same. We continue to wholeheartedly embrace foreign missions, while recognizing the need to also focus on our community. For years churches have made it “too easy” for themselves by visualizing missions only as something that happens “over yonder.” We could live whatever way we wanted to in our communities (not seeking to know or serve our neighbors) because we comforted ourselves in the fact that we were paying professionals to reach the Pygmies in Africa. But the truth is that our next-door neighbors (not to mention the people who live in tent cities all around us) need Jesus just as badly as the Pygmies do … and we are responsible to be reaching out to our neighbors even as we are supporting efforts to spread the Gospel in fertile soils throughout the rest of the world.This third part of our vision statement is the hardest, because it is ultimately the end goal. Christianity is always one generation away from extinction, and may also be one generation (or less!) away from Christ’s imminent return. We don’t want to be caught sleeping when He comes! And because it is the hardest, it will require the most prayer. The need for “more and better” prayer, both personal and corporate, is the single largest gaping hole in our church uncovered by the Reveal survey. If we fail to become the praying people that Christ is calling us to become, we will fail to achieve the purpose to which He has called us. For the truth is that we cannot, in our own strength, “Go and serve.” We need His power, His leading, His passion … and these things come only through prayer.

God is calling us to faithfulfulness … faithfulness in knowing Him, in growing together in Christ, and in going and serving, South Hill and beyond. Will we respond to His call?

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We need to hear from you!

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By Larry Short

A group of Elim ministry leaders has been meeting, facilitated by Cindy Waple, with the goal of creating strategic ministry plans for Elim for the next 1, 3, and 5 years. In order to create these plans, we need to conduct a “SWOT” (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis of Elim and its programs. In order to conduct this SWOT Analysis, starting tomorrow (February 6) we will begin a two-phase survey of our friends and members, designed to help us gauge Elim’s current health and ministry effectiveness.

The first phase is a survey instrument called “Reveal,” which has been used recently by thousands of churches to help evaluate their spiritual health and ministry functions. Phase 2, which will launch a few weeks after phase 1 is completed, will be a customized survey instrument (“SurveyMonkey”) which we are designing to fill gaps for specific information not covered in the Reveal survey, helping us to understand needs and opportunities more relevant to our specific programs.

Believe me when I say we understand that everyone is very busy, and I know how challenging it is to take time out of the day to complete an online survey! But your participation in this process will be incredibly valuable to this planning team as we seek to prayerfully prioritize our ministry efforts and resources. We need a minimum of 60% of our friends and members to complete both instruments in order for them to be statistically valid and provide useful information … but we would like everyone to help us by completing both phases. Therefore we ask you to please set aside the time required to complete both surveys, the first one (Reveal), within the next two weeks; and the second (SurveyMonkey) a few weeks later.

If we have your email address, you will receive a link by email to each survey. (If we do not have your e-mail address, it is very important that you email it to our church office at

Note that we are asking all members of your household who attend Elim and are 18 years of age, or older, to each take this survey on their own.

If you do not have email or internet access, we still encourage you to complete the survey. We will have computers set up at church on February 7, 14, and 21, during both services, for you to take the survey. You can either take the survey during first service and attend second, or you can take the survey during second service and attend first. Our desire is to have all people who call Elim their church home take this survey. If these times don’t work for you please call the church office and we will set up a time that does work. (Phase 1 of this survey will take roughly 25-35 minutes to complete.)

Let me close with a word about why we are doing this. In last week’s The Last Word, Pastor Martin wrote describing the job responsibilities of elders. One of those key responsibilities is “guarding the vision,” which requires us as leaders to discern what God’s vision is for the Body of believers here at Elim, and to assess accurately where we are at in achieving that vision. As elders we take this responsibility very seriously, and eagerly look forward to receiving the information that will be provided by this two-phase survey, which will help us as we seek to be responsive to your needs and to the Lord’s calling on this Body.

Also, please be praying for us (the staff and elders, and the strategic planning team) and for our Body as we go through this process, that God would use it to help us discern accurately what He is doing and desires to do in our midst.

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