THE GREATEST OF ALL HINGE MOMENTS

Near the end of our recent All Peoples East Gathering in Charlotte, a man got up and made a presentation about hinge moments. Do you know what a hinge moment is?

Using a case study from a church in Birmingham, Alabama this man taught us about hinge moments. Though not an EFCA congregation, the church he spoke of was from another solid evangelical denomination. It was located in the center of what is now referred to as the Civil Rights District. Having started in the 1920’s by a pastor who was a transplant from California, the church initially had a profound impact in the community.

In addition to leading many people to Christ, they had a soup kitchen to help feed the poor, they had launched their own radio station and even opened a bible college. Incredibly, they had done this work in Birmingham with both white and black people. Imagine that for a minute – integrated ministry in Birmingham before the civil rights movement! God was clearly doing a beautiful work.

Then, in 1953, the founding pastor had some “friends” reach out to advise him he was about to encounter some really tough times with the a growing civil rights movement. They suggested someone with his talents and skills should consider taking his talents elsewhere…kinda like the pastoral version of when Lebron James took his to Miami. So off he went to another church far away from Birmingham.

Looking back on the history of the church, people say that it was like a spirit of fear came over him. Consequently, the same thing happened to the church. Whereas they had boldly ministered to both black and white people with great impact, the next couple of pastors and leaders gave into fear and eventually stopped trying altogether.

One Sunday morning, Martin Luther King and about 30 others from his movement showed up at the front door of the church. The pastor and others showed Dr. King and his friends their guns and told them they weren’t welcome.

That was a hinge moment. It was the defining moment when the people in the church openly and brazenly allowed the spirit of the age to be more compelling to them than the Spirit of Christ. For decades following this moment, the ministry suffered. Their weekly attendance dwindled from 1500 to 70, the building became dilapidated, and their witness in the community to both whites and blacks was lost. Everything measurable seemed to cry, “Ichabod!”

Then, in the mid 2000’s, a pastor came who had a heart to do ministry for God’s glory among all the people groups in the community. Slowly, things improved, but it just seemed to be such a grind that the pastor brought in an outside ministry to consult them to see what they could do to get over this invisible hump. The pastor and other leaders refused to accept that God was finished with this church.

Together, the church leaders and the para-church organization did a historic survey of the church and discovered the terrible event with Dr. King. They agreed that this was indeed a hinge moment. The departure of the pastor in 1953 had begun a downward trend, but that moment with Dr. King needed to be repented for thoroughly and publicly.

The pastor and leaders called for a solemn assembly and repented corporately for the church’s sinful past. Then they wrote an article that was published in the two leading papers in the city. The letter was an expression of open and heartfelt repentance. Additionally, they contacted individuals and businesses in order to make things right with them. They repented for allowing the spirit of fear to control the ministry. This repentance was another hinge moment.

Today they are once again doing effective ministry in their community. They minister in a way that glorifies Christ with all kinds of people. This no longer means just white and black people, but immigrants and refugees, as well as to members of the LGBTQ community. The church stands as an incredible testimony to the power of God and of repentance that time and space won’t allow for here. 

The point of this post is this… hinge moments are those rare moments in life and ministry when things essentially change. Directions are changed. Moods and outlooks are different than they were before. 

Hinge moments are real and they are sometimes necessary.

We are in a season right now where the greatest of all hinge moments is remembered – Christmas. Looking back on history, that moment changed everything.

Maybe you need to slowly study your your ministry for past hinge moments? Maybe its time for a new hinge moment?

What is true for ministry is also true for us as people. We all have hinge moments in our lives. Maybe we need some new ones?

If nothing else, thank God for the hinge moment of our Lord’s incarnation and our salvation.

Blessings.

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.

EVERYONE NEEDS A COACH

Think about this…

  • Steph Curry has a shooting coach.
  • Serena Williams has a tennis coach.
  • Mariah Carey has a voice coach.
  • Jordan Spieth has a swing coach.

Do you look at that list and wonder, “Why?” Who is qualified to teach them how to get better? I certainly do.

Good things come to those who commit to being coached. Whether it’s in sports, music, or ministry, each of us needs to be in either relationships or learning communities where there is coaching, accountability and encouragement so that we an continue to grow and improve.

How about you? Are you in any environments or relationships where people are invited to offer you suggestions on how to grow and improve?  If not, I encourage you, begin to pray and ask God to lead you so that you can have that. Seek it out from people who are fruitful and have skills or insights you need at this season of life.

I’ve been praying and hoping our district conference coming up in October will open up some opportunities for those types of connections. But you don’t need to wait until October. Contact us in the district office (office@edaefca.org) and let us know how we can help you or your leaders think about personal and ministry growth.

And by the way, here’s an invitation from Mike Jarrell, the Creo East Missional Director:

This Friday I am getting together with a couple of guys in our district to discuss three things in particular:

  1.  How to multiply everything: disciples, leaders, communities, churches, and movements.
  2. How to live more intentionally on the mission of Jesus and send/join our people on mission.
  3. How to make disciples who understand how to use their gifts in community and on mission

One of the things I am privileged to do is encourage other pastors of both established churches and church plants as they seek to make disciples, live on mission, and plant new churches. I have a passion for coaching because I’ve met so many pastors who feel alone on the journey, and could use some direction, conversation, and accountability around being intentional to see disciples multiplied and lost people reached in their communities.

If you feel alone on the journey of making disciples, feel stuck in how to equip believers in your communities to use their gifts on mission, or don’t quite know how to engage the lost culture around you that doesn’t seem to want to come to your church services, I would love to connect with you.

I would like to offer either a community of mutual accountability and ongoing training, regular coaching, or both. I will be leading a breakout session at our Eastern District conference and I would love to connect with you.

WHEN ENVY IS GOOD

I’m sitting in a leadership conference that I needed far worse than I care to admit. I’ve had my heart stirred, my faith encouraged, my mind challenged and my calling clarified. In reference to the last part, my calling, it’s less about being a District Superintendent and more to do with being a leader in the body of Christ.

I’m at the Catalyst Conference where the theme is “Uncommon Fellowship” and the message has consistently addressed the calling of the Church to be one, just as Jesus prayed in John 17.  Andy Stanley, the first speaker, brought a message that spoke to the essential nature of the Church to LEAD the way for our culture in the area of tearing down the walls that separate people – race, economics, politics, denominations, etc.    

He spoke about all the one another statements in the New Testament and he said, “Everyone wants to be one another-ed.” 

He challenged us to imagine a world where people are skeptical of what we believe, but are absolutely envious of how well we treat one another in the Church.   

Wow!!! That’s a good envy for us to strive for.  We ought to strive to live in such a way and operate in such a way that when there is a division or a racial tension in a community that outsiders think to call pastors because they look at churches and say, “They know what to do. They can help us.” 

Amen!

I can’t wait for our All Peoples Gathering April 25-26. We’re going to work at this. Pray with me for a great move of the Spirit of God to make us one in the Eastern District of the EFCA.

God bless you and your churches! I’m praying your Easter season is reviving souls!

PREACHING THAT MISSES THE POINT

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” But Dr. Abe Kuruvilla sure is trying.

That’s how it felt for some of us last week as we gathered together in Princeton Junction at Windsor Chapel for our Preaching Refresher. 

64 of our pastors and preachers-in-training signed up to be a part of this gathering. Not everyone made it due to a brief snowstorm, but it was worth the effort for those who made the trek. We had a good representation of preachers who’ve preached for decades, as well as a handful of preachers in their twenty’s just getting started.   

Dr. Kuruvilla challenged us about how we prepare messages. As an expert in his field, he knows that many of us were taught with what is widely known as “Big Idea” preaching, made popular by Haddon Robinson. Others have been heavily influenced by what is called “Christ-Centered” preaching, most notably by Bryan Chappel. 

What he encouraged us to do was to let the inspired author’s intent determine the theme of every message. For example, he said we should not just ask, “What is the author saying in this text?” and then move to determine application based on what we want to say about the passage. Instead, we should wrestle with the text until we can answer the question, “What is the author doing with what he is saying?”  The answer to that question should be the application for the sermon. The answer to that question is what bridges hermeneutics (Bible study) with homiletics (preaching).

Using humor, he advocated avoiding the preacher’s temptation to provide too many fascinating but unnecessary details and miss the point of the pericope (section) of the Bible we are preaching.

To illustrate, he used a situation where one person sat down beside another and accidentally sat their chair on the foot of the other. The one who has had the chair placed on his foot says, “Your chair is on my foot.” But the point of what’s being said is not just to state the chair’s location, but to say, “Move the chair off my foot!”   

Preachers may be tempted to give glorious detail about the wonders of the foot (after all, it is amazing), but the message here is clear – move the chair off my foot!

Praying for you and your churches,