THREE THINGS WE MUST SEE IN 2018

USA Today recently released its list of 10 Must See Films of 2018. What came to mind for me when I scanned the list was how bad things must be here in the real world, because 7 of the 10 movies were fantasy or science fiction. There must be some belief that people need to escape reality.

With all the drama that has accompanied 2017, its understandable. But maybe what we need to do is to fix our eyes on something that is still real, but more hopeful than the daily news.

The apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus and reminded them of what they’ve received from the Lord. He told them he was praying for them that they might see all that they have received…

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Ephesians 1:15-23

Believers have hope that is unshakable, riches that are immeasurable, and power that is uncontainable.

As ministers of the Gospel, let’s leave 2017 with the eyes of our hearts enlightened to all that is ours, in spite of our challenging circumstances. It’s easy and far too common to forget how blessed we are, but brothers and sisters, let’s go into 2018 not looking for an escape from reality, but with a more clear and comprehensive view of our reality because of the goodness and grace of God in our lives.

Happy New Years!

Blessings,

 

 

BUILDING A LEADERSHIP PIPELINE FOR THE NEXT GENERATION

The chair was oversized, soft and the perfect place for a late afternoon nap. With kids running around the living room and dinner preparations clanging in the kitchen, he slipped into blissful slumber. We watched in amazement as he slept through all the commotion. Nothing could wake him.

Without warning the incredibly annoying alarm vibrated the entire condo signaling the dryer was finished. It was as if that wonderful comfy chair transformed into the electric chair. The sweet slumber instantly turned into wide-eyed panic. Jolted, his arms flailing, feet running but not yet on the ground, the alarm sent my friend into a flurry to save himself, and our vacationing families, from certain peril. The memory still produces side splitting laughter to this day.

I occasionally find myself in similar situations, but it has nothing to do with sleep. The daily routines, the regular commotion of life and the endless to-do lists swirl around enough to keep me, and probably everyone on occasion, from being aware of some underlying issues that need attention.

It often takes an alarm to jolt us into paying attention to something important. This is true for organizations as well as individuals.

In the EFCA, we had a recent alarm that sounded in the form of some research stating the average age of our Senior Pastors is 55 years old and the we have an increasingly aging missionary force here and around the world.

While we thank God for these faithful servants, this discovery left us with some very important questions for our movement. Where are our young leaders? Who is going to take the place of our retiring leaders when they are done? What are we proactively doing to mobilize the next generation?

The alarm is sounding in the EFCA!

This alarm is why I’m giving the next season of my life in ministry to Apex.

Apex serves the local church by mobilizing emerging leaders who advance the Gospel from here to everywhere. Our experiences in cities all over the world provide the context for Gospel Fluency to see and speak the Gospel in all of life. We exist to provide a variety of training experiences and missions opportunities to young people in order that they might glorify God and build His kingdom with their lives.

It is our clear directive to be a leadership development pipeline from middle school beyond college graduation providing the clear and reachable next step for each participant’s faith journey. So many young people are being asked what they are going to do with the rest of their lives. We believe that if we can motivate and train for next week it will set the direction for the rest of their lives. It’s our deep desire to build an environment where young people are inspired to give their best to building the kingdom of God right now. We want to see a generation of servant leaders introducing their peers to Jesus and that starts the moment they return home.   

Apex is doing its part to answer the alarm bell. We are proactively working with churches to mobilize the next generation. It would be our privilege to partner with you as you seek to leverage every part of your ministry to help students be disciples who make disciples.

If you have any questions or want to get more information on who we are and what we do please visit our website where you will find more in-depth descriptions of our experiences and contact information. 

 

David and Shawna Boerema serve as US Project Directors for Apex. For 20 years they have served in local church student ministry and are passionate about helping students take the next steps in their walk with Jesus. David also serves as the Associate Director of ReachStudents for the EFCA’s Eastern District. Dvid and Shawna live in Central Pennsylvania with their two boys and love to be outdoors, travel and appreciate a cup of finely crafted coffee.

david.boerema@efca.org  –  Shawna.boerema@efca.org

 

THE KEY TO MINISTERING TO MILLENNIALS

BY COLEMAN RAFFERTY

Despite its self-contradiction, the principle that exclusive, objective truth is unknowable has gained much traction in younger generations today. Our postmodern age has indoctrinated specifically the millennial generation with claims such as, “the truth is relative,” and, “what’s true for you may not be true for me.” But Jesus said that all His disciples, “will know the truth” (John 8:32). He even called Himself, “the Truth,” at the exclusion of all other options (John 14:6).

Claims like these are scandalous today where exclusive declarations of truth are considered unloving, unfair, and outright false. However, the problem with our postmodern concept of truth is that it leads people to relativism, insecurity, and eventually causes them to feel lost and unfulfilled in the middle of a truth-less sea. Thankfully, Jesus did not support our modern conception of truth. Jesus spoke of a type of truth that leads to an objective, confident, satisfied life—that being, the life of a person who has heard and seen, in the living Word of God, that Jesus is the culmination of their quest for truth.

Among the many distinctives that set apart Jesus’ disciples, Jesus lists one key distinctive that will prove helpful here. Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31b-32). In other words, followers of Jesus will abide in His word, and in doing so come to know the freeing truth. Thus, to discuss how a Christian can help this truth decayed generation come to the light, I want to share a couple of marks of a disciple who is abiding in God’s word. These are true for millennials just like every other generation.

Stranded in the middle of a truth-less sea, many millennials are struggling and taking on water, since their refuge has been hidden from them. However, Jesus speaks a word of hope to their drowning souls. Jesus says, “If you abide in my word… you will know the truth” (John 8:32). When a person is drowning, all they want is a refuge, a place to grab onto, or better yet be grabbed by, that is strong enough to secure their deliverance from the rising waters. This refuge, Jesus says, is His word.

God’s word confronts our relative society by proclaiming that there is one objective, exclusive, wonderful truth—Jesus Christ Himself, “and there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Thus, an insistence on God’s Word will equip and inform younger generations that relativistic, postmodern thought is not good news, despite how appealing it may sound.

Not only does the Word of God equip younger generations to reject unhelpful relativism, it also provides a spiritually thirsty, insecure generation with a confident, satisfied hope in Christ. After Jesus tells His disciples that in His word they will find and know the truth, He informs them that the truth will set them free (see John 8:32). For those who are captive to the 21st century lies about where people can find their satisfaction—whether that be in a significant other, money, or human praise; God’s Word informs us that true, lasting satisfaction is only found in a total surrender to Jesus as Lord (see John 6).

While our society tells us to look inward to find our security, Jesus instructs us to do quite the opposite. The quest for security that looks inward often leads to insecurity, but Jesus gives the hope of confidence and security because He promises freedom based on His own merit and not our own. Jesus says, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). To the insecure, unfulfilled younger generation, God’s word provides a confident and satisfied hope found in Christ alone.

While the contemporary postmodern movement has only led people to be insecure, unconfident and unsatisfied, the Word of God provides the hope we need. While some may say the Bible is an antiquated book, the truth is that, “the word of God is living and active” (Hebrews 4:12a). So, for anyone aspiring to encourage younger generations, take Jesus’ advice and never stop insisting on His living, sufficient and unbreakable Word. In doing so, many will come to be secure and satisfied in the objective, exclusive, wonderful Truth Himself.

 

Coleman Rafferty is a Sophomore Biblical and Religious studies major at Messiah College. He was born in Massachusetts and raised in Northern Virginia as the youngest of three brothers. He came to faith in Jesus Christ during his junior year of high school, and has felt a passion to teach God’s Word ever since. He spends his spare time reading good books, playing sports with his friends and engaging in theological discussion with all who are willing, and some who are not.

BEWARE THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

Have you heard this joke? A person bought an elephant for a friend’s room. The friend thanked him to which the person said, “Don’t mention it.” 

Think about it, you will get it. Hint: What is true of the elephant in the room? 

Does your church have the proverbial elephant in the room? That uncomfortable issue no one wants to mention, the problem no one is willing to talk about and, therefore, it never gets challenged. 

Sometimes it’s a leadership issue. Weak-kneed elders or those who are too strong. Perhaps it is roles and responsibilities that we expect to be covered that are not; sin in the camp that is swept under the rug; a power hungry church boss that ignores the direction of the leaders; a gossiping spirit; prayerlessness; an unwillingness to listen to God. 

Some churches can’t remember the last time there was a new birth. Sometimes it is the old adage, “this is just the way we have always done ministry and we are not about to change now even though it is not working any longer. Like Tevya in Fiddler on the Roof a church declares, ‘TRADITION!’, that codified social interaction that just seems to make life go on peacefully year after year based on a particular congregational worldview that the group is comfortable with … until … uncomfortably, it is not. 

For every church there will be a different situation. You know what it is for your church. And even though people know it is there, because we are afraid to cause a stir, or offend someone, we tip toe around the elephant in the room, and it never is dealt with.

So what should happen with an elephant in the room? An elephant will just take up all the space in the room unless it is led away. For a church to grow and stay healthy, it is imperative that spiritual leaders acknowledge the elephant in the room, not be afraid of it, prayerfully seek God about it and take steps to deal with it. Difficult? Yes. But to not deal with it means the church will slowly suffocate by the sheer size and weight of the elephant and never be free to grow into what God intends the church to be.

We have Biblical examples: 

  • Isaiah 54 refers to the Jewish nation becoming barren because they did not share the blessings of God with the nations so that others could come to faith and worship God. 
  • Acts 6 refers to the elephant of racism when the Hebrew church was ignoring the needs of the Hellenist believing widows.
  • 1 Corinthians 1 confronted the elephant of jealousy, division and quarreling.    
  • 1 Corinthians 5 judged the elephant of sexual immorality. 
  • Galatians 1 condemns the elephant of deserting the grace of Christ and turning back to the law. 
  • Paul confronted Peter to his face for the elephant of hypocrisy when he separated himself from the Gentiles whom God was calling to Himself.      

The list could go on, but I think you get the point. Biblical leaders were not afraid to call out sin or sinners in the church and thereby removing the elephant from the room. It is time to acknowledge our elephants, call them what they are, be transformed by what is Truth, and move on to freedom in our congregations.   

TIME FOR SHARPENING

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

This verse speaks to an important principle: leaders NEED other leaders to speak with and do life with in order to keep growing. 

With that in mind, I want to invite you into two things that I believe may give you a fresh sharpening. First, a conversation. Next, a conference.

A conversation…

I recently read an article by Dan Reiland which asked the question, “Are Altar Calls Outdated?” It’s a topic that has been brewing in my mind for several months. From my vantage point as a DS, I would say most of our EFCA churches tend to avoid altar calls as well as any kind of immediate response to the sermon. 

I spoke about this issue and the article I read from Dan Reiland with one of the cluster groups the other day and we had a really good conversation about it. From that conversation, and many others I’ve had with our district pastors, here are some things that seem to be in the minds of our pastors when it comes to why we don’t give altar calls or any kind of invitation that calls for an immediate response…

  • We want to avoid the temptation of being manipulative, trying to produce results ourselves.
  • We want to avoid being perceived by others as trying to manipulate.
  • We are very concerned about how skeptics could process the pressure of a moment where a call to a respond is given, especially as it relates to anything that is overtly emotional.
  • We don’t want to confuse people with thinking that they just need to pray a prayer or come forward or do any other thing without really understanding salvation.
  • We philosophically think its better to help our listeners use the sermon as an entry into a process where they can learn how to apply their response to the sermon. Namely, we want to get people into a small group where they can think through how to apply the message to everyday life in the context of community.
  • We trust the sovereignty of God with the results.
  • We think that witness is best done outside the walls of the church and the gathering of believers is not a place where we need to witness.

I have mixed feelings about these reasons. Some seem legit and some seem like pure fear. I admit that my Baptist roots really show themselves when I begin thinking this through. But my intent in today’s post is not to say definitively what I think – but to ask you, what do you think about this list? What are you doing as a preacher and a witness that invites people to draw closer to Christ? 

More importantly than what I think about the list above, I wonder, what does Jesus think? 

If you’re open to what some widespread study has taught Dan Reiland and others, read the article for yourself.

A conference…

There’s still time to come to our Eastern District Leadership Conference. We have national and district leaders who will be speaking to the men and women who are leading in our district at the conference. Check out the line-up, and then come join us for a time of sharpening! 

Hope to hear from you and see you at conference!

Eddie