By: Tony Hermankevich
When we talk about the mission of the Church (capital “C”), we might hear the Westminster Catechism being quoted: “The Chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” Or from John 4:23-24: "But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
It seems, therefore, our purpose is to worship God and to bring glory to his Name. I believe this to be true, but we must learn how to attain our chief end. We must be taught. We are to be disciples, and we are to make disciples that also make disciples. As we learn, we participate in Christ’s Great Commission. As we go out to seek and to save those who are lost, we are compelled by the love of Christ. We are convinced that One died for all, therefore all died. Out of gratitude for what has been done for us already, we share this love with others by laying down our lives - hoping that more people will come to saving faith in Jesus, and more people will gain eternal life, while also realizing their unlimited potential for a transformed life even now. And thus, we fulfill the Great Commandment to love God and to love our neighbor. Quite simply, this is what we all should be doing.
However, when we talk about making disciples, the conversation often moves into the need for a process that's over and above mature believers cultivating relationships with new and non-believers. When we talk about mission, many expect that church leaders are pressuring them to travel to the ends of the earth as foreign missionaries and to possibly die a martyr’s death. Foreign mission might be the call for some, but it is not the call for everyone. Unfortunately, a majority of people in church today believe that even a short-term mission at home or abroad must certainly be the call of someone else and “not me.” Moreover, if we talk about money in church: the money necessary to keep the lights on, money to pay the pastor, money to fund trips for missions of mercy and justice, many people become uncomfortable and even angry, assuming that the pastor is “preaching about money again” to benefit himself under the guise of stewardship. We pay our taxes and expect the government to provide for the less fortunate. This is the job of the Church. This is true religion: “to care for widows and orphans” (James 1:27).
The mission has been outsourced, and church is a place for me to get what I need.
In Matthew 9:37-38, Jesus tells his disciples: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” My contention is that the problem isn’t that we don’t have enough people in the church or enough warm bodies for the work. There are mega churches with 30,000 members. The real issue is that those who are ready and willing to go out into the harvest are few. It’s our job as leaders in the Church to help people to discover their gifts, and to help them prepare to put those gifts to work building the Kingdom.
My challenge to all of us, including myself, is to pray and listen - asking God to reveal our specific gifts and the work in which those gifts can be used. Get involved with people who seem to be on mission already. Before we can ache for a specific group of people, we might have to meet them first, which means going as a matter of obedience rather than emotion. We might later fall in love with those people and places as we go. It is often as we do the work that our gifts, our hearts, and God’s heart for ministry and mission are revealed.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Amen.
By: Nancy O'Leary
It is already mid-February - the gardening season will soon be here, and I am beginning to do some planning. In the Bible, God tells us to build houses, live in them, and plant gardens and eat their fruit. It represents God’s community building and the abundance that follows. It seems to me that it’s not about the houses and the fruit, but rather the community that grows out of the process – God’s eternal community.
This week, Church Army USA received some sad news. One of our officers passed suddenly the other day. It was somewhat of a shock to all of us. It is a reminder, however, of how fleeting life can be, and also how wondrous is the gift of life given to us. I think about all the plans ahead at the garden this summer and that all of our plans are like dust in the wind, but with Christ at the center, our plans are also full of eternal purposes as we seek to love one another and to be as Christ to others.
So, as we live in houses and plant gardens again this year, let’s consider what is really important – to follow and to be as Christ to those around us, to love unconditionally, to hope, to give generously, to value every day as a gift, to lift up the brokenhearted, and to strive for peace and justice. Thus, embracing and living in the things that are eternal. God says, this is what I require of you: "to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8).
By: Ferdinando Turkovich
“They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”
- Isaiah 35:10
There is a song called the “Isaiah Song” sung by All Nations Worship Assembly Atlanta. The lyrics come from Isaiah chapter 35 and talk about redemption. Redemption is a funny word. What does it mean to be redeemed, to be set free? Better yet, have you ever experienced such joy and gladness that it spills over, and sorrow and sighing flee away?
Over the years we have had the honor of walking among the sorrow and sighing of many of our friends. Sometimes we are a stop, a place of refuge for the wandering, sorrowful soul. There are instances in the life of an individual where true transformation takes place, and it is in these marvelous moments when joy and gladness send sorrow and sadness fleeing away.
Our men’s recovery group has been such a place to both heal and deal with all of life’s hurts, hang-ups, and habits. This has been a safe place for men to freely come together and share the deeper places of their souls with each other. It is a place of tears and fears; freedom and confrontation; hope and belonging.
To experience the joy and gladness that chases away sorrow and sadness, these men are required to give up the pride that says “I’m okay,” the shame that says “I’m too bad,” and the fear that says “I’ll never change.” These men must be vulnerable - trusting that there will be a person to hold them up when they cannot stand on their own. But to be vulnerable, one often must be shown how.
What is vulnerability? Practically speaking, it is trusting another person or group of
people with the pieces of our souls that we often hide from the outside world. These are often the pain places that we don’t want to remember; the mistakes we wish never happened; the failures that keep us from trying. What our men’s group has found to be true is that being vulnerable frees us from these internal prisons, and healing can then truly begin.
By: Scott Colburn
I recently got the annual e-mail from the chaplain of the Beaver County Jail. Every year at this time, he informs those of us who volunteer there that the training dates are coming soon. Uncommon Grounds has had a Sunday night Bible Study at the jail for 8 years now.
I never wanted to teach a Bible Study at jail. I felt a little nervous about going into a jail, and a lot awkward at talking to people who didn't share my suburban, educated, middle-class perspective. Shouldn't I just mind my own business and let other people deal with their own situations and the consequences of whatever they have done? But I felt God call me to join with others at the jail to teach and share ourselves. I'm glad I did, and years later I can't imagine not having inmates as part of my Christian community.
This isn't to romanticize things. We've seen a lot of inmates seem to “get it” and then we see them back in jail within months. Sometimes they don't seem to learn a whole lot from the lessons, and when I've been two weeks in a row they barely remember what we covered the last week. But they are hungry for change, hungry for a power in their lives greater than chaos, ignorance, or addiction. We have the chance to make disciples, not just church members.
As I said, the training dates are coming up in March and April. It's a two hour training, mostly for gathering information and doing background checks. We could use a few more guys and gals who love the Lord and want to love His estranged children. Pray about it and see if God may be calling you. Doesn't matter if you aren't a Bible scholar, or don't know what to say to an inmate, or think people in jail got what they deserved. If you believe in making disciples, this may be the place for you. Contact me, Scott Colburn, through the cafe and I'll get you the information on signing up. This past summer, I was sitting on my front porch when someone called my name. It was a guy from the study riding by in a car. He'd just gotten out, and he was excited to see me. We caught up for a moment and then he was on his way. I haven't seen him since, but I haven't seen him back at the jail either. Wherever he is, he became free through the Gospel, even when he was still in jail. He has a future, the same one that all of us believers have.
By: Andrenna Williams
Here at Uncommon Grounds Cafe, we truly believe that ministry is most effective when it flows from relationships. We build our events and programs around the needs, desires, and concerns of our customers, fellow community members, and friends. It’s more beneficial for us to focus on what’s been clearly identified as being important to those around us vs. guessing or assuming what people need/want and then hoping that what we come up with sticks.
One area where I'm seeing this “organic flow” play out almost flawlessly is in watching 2 of our kitchen staff take complete ownership over our weekly Open Mic night: from coming up with the menu for the night’s dinner special, to working with volunteers, to hosting, and even getting door prizes! For the past year or so, Herb and I have been trying to figure out a way to “revamp” Open Mic. We've wanted to be able to provide a more supportive environment for the performers and a welcoming feel for newcomers, while maintaining an atmosphere that was conducive to family fun and community fellowship. Our issue was finding a way to do this without disturbing the current flow or upsetting the regulars. In other words, allowing this “change” to happen and flow “organically.”
Over the past 3 months, both Tessa and Paul have worked hard together to bring a fresh feel to Open Mic, and it's worked!!!! Each week, a delicious meal is prepared which almost ALWAYS sells out, there is a dedicated team of volunteers who not only show up to do the physical work but also to “listen,” encourage, and love on the guests, they have created an atmosphere that fully supports and gives respectful attention to EVERY artist that goes on stage, and they have even started doing weekly raffles and small games with free coffees, Big Breakfasts, and café merch as the prizes. Tessa and Paul both have a strong ability to connect with people “organically,” and are sensitive to their needs. It has been such a blessing to watch these two team members love this ministry and desire for it to be the best that it can be. I am honored to be managing them both, and look forward to seeing what they will do in 2020!
By: Angel Bailey
This weekend, I had the opportunity to go to the Vision gathering for the Remnant Sons motorcycle ministry that my husband and I are a part of. It was an amazing, God-filled weekend, and I was able to share about what I do with the women in our café community. The Ladies Night Make n' Take parties have been so much fun this past year, and to get to share some of that with women from this other ministry was wonderful!
I am so blessed that the Lord has given me these creative gifts, and that I get to help other women see the love of Jesus while awakening a creative spirit within them. I spoke about self-care, and how important it is that we take time, every day if we can, to evaluate our emotional, physical, and spiritual selves to see where we need to inject a little love and caring. God rested on the 7th day, and even Christ took time to step away from everyone to pray and get refreshed.
I shared that we don’t need to feel guilty about taking care of ourselves, and how easy it is to do. Just going to the store and buying your favorite candy or scented candle; or taking a walk-in nature; or if you save a bit of money for a massage or getting your nails or hair done once in a while. A little love for yourself will go a long way. Then we made some yummy exfoliating sugar scrubs and had so much fun! I am thankful that I’ve found my niche and that I “get to” love and care for so many women.
By: Herb Bailey
As we enter into the New Year, we are faced with an overwhelming sense of the desire
for God to be first in our lives. For the past three years we have had themes, and this year is no different. The theme for 2020 is ORDER.
When we were spending time reflecting, the Lord was clear that for us to have the
CAPACITY to serve Him, as well as be filled with His love, we needed to put Him first.
Perhaps you’ve heard the greatest commandment question that was posed to Jesus, and His response: "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND." (Matthew 22:37) This is the great and first commandment.
Not to let the practical work off the table, Jesus quickly follows up with: “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In ministry, it is easy to get those two mixed up. When people like ourselves are so busy serving the marginalized, we can get bogged down in loving people and subsequently miss our first love. Our first love is the Lord, and from that wellspring we serve, love, and partner with others as they walk in the Kingdom of God.
As the Psalmist says, “Order my steps in Your word; let no sin rule over me.”(Psalm 119:133) I pray that this year, we are ordered by the Lord, and love others from a place of resting with Him, giving our neighbors the best of what we have.
By: Herb Bailey
I wasn’t expecting it to go the way it did. But then again, it never does. I’m grateful to God that when I plan how I want things to happen, He interrupts my good plan with His PERFECT will. Our theme this year was CAPACITY, and we spent a lot of time thinking about how well we were making room for the Lord in our lives, professionally and personally. We challenged the status quo, pushed back against societal norms, and continued to meet together, even when times got hard. We've overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony.
One of the hard things about ministry in the societal margins, is the lack of follow through… I’m not going to say anymore about that so you too can get a small taste of our daily life. It’s okay though, we are offering grace - room to get it right. We have learned that if we don’t offer grace, it is because we don’t realize grace has been offered to us.
Speaking of us, our numbers have changed as we have some that started this journey with us that no longer call the café home, and others that are no longer in the land of the living. On the other side, we have added three new staff, and new volunteers as well. This transition means that we are doing more, with an increased capacity for outreach, training, and love.
Overall, we could not accomplish our call without your help. We could not minister to the capacity that we have achieved without the Lord prompting you to pray, volunteer and financially support and walk with us. If you have not given an end of the year donation to the ministry, we look forward to receiving and processing your financial donation before the close of the year. We look with anticipation toward the 2020 year, and we are looking forward to rolling out next year’s theme, ORDER. "Order my steps according to thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me." Psalm 119:133
We look forward to partnering closer with you in the coming year, so until then...
“The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26 NKJV
By: Lauren Zawatski
Awestruck. That’s a wonderful word to describe just one of the emotions running through my veins when I first set foot on the streets of Paris.
Recently I had the opportunity to travel to France for a few days - fulfilling a nearly decade-old dream in my heart! Ever since high school, I’ve always had an unexplainable draw toward France and French culture, and I’d hoped to one day visit or even move there. It wasn’t until I started walking with the Lord when I was 17 that I began to discover that this was a dream that God had actually planted in my heart. Throughout college I studied French, and eventually graduated with a minor in French language. I had desperately wanted to do study abroad in college, but the Lord knew it was not the right time for me quite yet. Years continued to pass and the Lord would keep giving me little reminders and confirmations here and there that this was still certainly something that He had planned for me - even though I had no idea what it would look like!
Fast forward to this year, and it has been the hardest one I've ever experienced. Every sphere of my life has been stretched and challenged, and my emotions have done somersault after somersault. Earlier this year, I had put this dream of visiting France on a "shelf" in my mind, trusting God would eventually take me there when the time was right. All the while, the Lord had been preparing the way for me. I never could have anticipated then that later this year I would actually go!
Simultaneously, almost 8 months ago when I started working at the cafe, God was placing me here, though I was unaware, as yet another reminder of how much he knows what He's doing! Not only did he set me somewhere that would be a place of healing and wholeness amidst the ongoing turmoil, he set me somewhere that has been so strengthening for my spirit and has aligned me even more with His heart. Through it all, I've learned to truly pray: "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done," even if it's not what I had in mind.
What this year has taught me is this: I don't have to force anything! My greatest plans are nothing when compared to God's infinite wisdom. I see a partial view, He sees the full. One of my all time favorite passages in the Bible is Psalm 23. Though it's one of the more quoted verses of the Bible, the Lord has taken me through it this year in a truly intimate and practical way. During both the highs and lows I've learned to say:
"The Lord is my best friend and shepherd, I always have more than enough." - Psalm 23:1 (TPT)
By: Tessa Sentell
The cafe’s Open Mic has been changing and experimenting in the past few months. Some regulars have drifted away and some new ones have arrived. We’ve had more volunteers than ever before, and Paul has been living his dream as our host. With a whole new crowd of people comes new stories. Here are just a few...
A good bit of our crowd is made up of a group from a local rehab. They are an absolute joy to have, even if they clean the house of all ice cream every week! Two regular performers are Jeanette and Richie. Jeanette admits she can’t sing and is nervous every week, but still sings because the songs mean a lot to her personally. Richie is a gifted rapper, and weekly gives his testimony of the raps he used to write and the life he used to lead, and how he now raps for Jesus and uses this gift to tell his testimonies. The group is so encouraging and enthusiastic; no matter how good or bad the performer was, the person is always engulfed in hugs and applause the second they get off stage. Some people still come back to the cafe after moving from the rehab. I get to hear their stories as they continue recovery. Some move on to a ¾ house conveniently located within walking distance of my church, and to my joy some have joined my family there.
Joseph is our co-host. I’m not quite sure how he got there. He came in as an extremely quiet 19-year-old local kid, invited by a partnering youth group. He rarely spoke, but always had a smile. One night I turned around and found Joseph up on stage announcing the next person and just kind of went with it. I later found out that Paul had struck up some good conversations with Joseph, saw potential in him, and wanted him to come back. So he offered him the position of co-host to keep him coming around. Turns out this was the Lord’s timing, as Paul had an injury the next week, putting Joseph as the main open mic host for the next month.
Over the last few weeks I’ve seen him gain confidence. He’s made a group of friends and stays afterwards to talk and play games, where before he would sit quietly and watch. He’s getting louder from the stage and in conversation, and I’ve found out that he’s really good with kids. This is an isolation to community testimony! He is someone I’m happy to call my friend, and that I’m really, really proud of.
Lastly, here’s a quick story about a recent volunteer. Christina came into the cafe in a spiritual rut, unsure of where she was supposed to be or what she was supposed to be doing. We hit it off immediately, and she felt safe to talk about her journey with the Lord and express her frustrations. Fast forward a few months, and I get a text saying that she felt like the Lord was opening the door for her to lead a dance group, and that she was going to follow that lead even though she was scared. So, this past week myself and several other volunteers got to pray over Christina to bless her and commission her to go forth and multiply with what she’s learned from the cafe, into this new season of obedience to God. Promises of meetings over coffee to follow.
I love these people. We are blessed to host a space where testimonies like these can unfold. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Uncommon Grounds Cafe