By: Tessa Sentell
At the cafe, we do ministry out of relationship, and this past week was a prime example of that. At our first Saturday night Bridge service, I met a man named John who fell in love with the vision of The Bridge. I was excited to see that he came to my church the next day after being invited. I soon found that we attended the same Celebrate Recovery group at a church that I was making connections with via the café.
A few months went by, and I sent out the flier for the next Bridge to a few churches. I was told later that John saw the flier hanging up at his church and excitedly told the whole CR group about it. The pastor explained that the flier had come from me, and everyone hopped on the idea, since I had relationship with them from attending the group. So, a flier on a bulletin board became more than just that. There was suddenly a person and a mission attached to it.
The service went well. I was able to share my testimony publicly for the first time, and we had a different church volunteering with us. About a week later, I was at a random conference in Pittsburgh and picked a “random” seat. The girl next to me immediately lit up and said “You’re that girl that gave her testimony at the café!” Though I hadn’t talked to her, she had been in the volunteering church group, and my story had made an impact on her. The Holy Spirit really makes a small world smaller.
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.