This month we continue with the excellent teaching, “The Old Landlord,” by Larry Christenson. This month four practical tips are given on how to specifically deal with Satan, the old landlord. May you be encouraged and blessed as you give the evil one “no occupancy” in your life with Jesus.
Richest Blessings Always,
THE OLD LANDLORD - Part 2
“Four Practical Tips”
1. Don’t let your feelings fool you. Feelings are one of the old landlord’s strongest weapons. When he waves these things in your face, it will stir up all the old feelings you had before Christ delivered you – fear, doubt, guilt, lust, anxiety, despair. The old feelings will be right there, and strong. Don’t be afraid of them. Simply do not follow them. Rather, just quietly tell that thought, “Take the whole matter up with Jesus.” It may take some persistence on your part, but eventually he will leave. He has to. You have the Name of Power.
When Christ sets you free, it’s like pulling a big weed out by the roots. There are little troughs left in the earth, where the roots used to be. These don’t cover over at once. So what does the Enemy do? He beams a thought into your mind. He lays it right in the trough where the old root used to be – right where the memories are still easily aroused, right where the feelings that used to accompany that thing still lie raw and exposed. The memories stir up, the feelings are inflamed. Your faith in Christ faces a practical test. Are you going to trust the Word and promise of god, even despite your thoughts and feelings?
Remember the simple rule: Feelings follow faith. The old landlord cannot stay around forever. Then he leaves, your feelings will subside.
2. Do not become discouraged by the frequency or the repetition of the same temptation. Repetition is another of the old landlord’s favorite weapons. We might resist him two, three, four times, but then we become weary. He convinces us that we are, after all, still as undelivered as ever. So we open the door and let him in.
If the same thought comes back a hundred times in the same day, a hundred times quietly and confidently send it on to Jesus. And rejoice! Yes, rejoice! Because the old landlord cannot come knocking one more tie than he gets permission from God to do so.
Read the book of Job and see: Before Satan ever moved against Job, he had to get permission from God to do so. God lets the old landlord come knocking. This is the way in which your faith is built up. Every time you send the old landlord on to Jesus, your faith in your Deliverer is strengthened. And if he knocks loud and bellows fiercely, and if he returns a hundred, yes, a thousand times, rejoice! For with every encounter – with every turning him away to Jesus – you are being knit in trust and faith to your Deliverer.
3. Do not feel that this requires some kind of superhuman willpower. This whole way of victory in Jesus is not based on willpower at all: It is based on faith – faith in the reality and authority of Jesus.
Consider again our illustration: Suppose the old landlord comes knocking at the door when the father and mother of the family have gone to the store. The five-year-old daughter is home alone. He blusters out his usual threats and demands. In herself the child has no “strength.” She is just a five-year-old. But she is prepared. She knows the way things really stand.
By no strength of her own, but purely because of the incontestable authority of the new Landlord, she says calmly and confidently, “You’ll have to take that up with the new Landlord.” No fear. No shouting. No struggle. No “willpower.” Just simple trust and confidence (the Bible calls it “faith”) in an incontestable authority. That is what you have in Jesus: An Incontestable Authority. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).
4. Cut your conversation with the old landlord short. In effect, give him to understand that you have other important things to do! For instance, you can turn to Jesus in an act of worship, song, or praise. This guards against the danger of this whole thing becoming just a “new law” – a routine which you follow, more-or-less successfully, but one which does not really build up your personal relationship to Jesus.
Imagine the case of a man who has had a habit of lust. He cannot sit down at a lunch counter without casting a furtive, lusting glance at the waitress. He never goes by a newsstand without paging through some lurid book or magazine. Even in his relations with his wife, there is more of lust than real love.
Then he is saved. He receives the life of Jesus, and he knows that he cannot continue to do this sort of thing. But he does not understand this life of deliverance-through-Jesus. So he merely applies the law. He tries to “contain” this lust of the flesh by resolve and willpower. He has a measure of success, but also many a failure. And in none of this is he really bound to Jesus in love. In fact, he may even begin inwardly to resent the hard life Jesus calls him to, and excuse himself a little lusting.
But now he learns this life of deliverance. He sees a lewd magazine on a bus station rack. He does not “fight” against this temptation. He does not simply grit his teeth and suffer through the duration of this temptation, saying over and over to himself, “I will not lust, I will not lust, I will not lust.” Evil resisted grows stronger. “The power of sin is the law” (1 Corinthians 15:56). The more he invokes the law against his lusting, the more powerful grows the sin within him. He has tried that method before, and failed.
The way of real deliverance lies in quite another direction. He sees the lewd magazine. He quietly recognizes within himself that this is a situation of temptation. At once he takes up his impregnable position IN CHRIST through an act of conscious worship. He averts his eyes from the immediate source of temptation and inwardly begins to praise Jesus. Perhaps he sings a hymn to himself. He praises his wonderful DELIVERER. Not in a fearful spirit, as though the lust at any moment might break through the door. (He has sent it on to Jesus, and it has to leave!) He praises Jesus in a joyful, confident spirit knowing that He, Jesus, has won the victory over lust. His authority cannot be challenged.
As he binds himself to Jesus in this conscious act of worship, the temptation will retreat. It is not the law which has saved him. He has simply yielded the whole thing to Jesus, through an act of worship.
Another thing you can do is enter into a preconceived plan of intercession. A man once found himself afflicted by blasphemous thoughts. He fought against them with all the resources of his conscious will, but to no avail. Then he struck on a different approach. He determined that whenever these blasphemous thoughts came knocking at the door of his mind, he would begin praying for his cousin Henry, a missionary in China. It was not long before the old landlord quit bringing that blasphemy bill around for collection, for he found that all it did was stir up a lot of prayer for China!
Turning to some routine job is another way to excuse yourself from a conversation with the old landlord. A good stint of garden work, or taking care of some long-needed repairs around the house, has frustrated the old landlord’s plans more than once.
It is important to realize that the old landlord may tell you the “truth.” Some of those bills are due – worry, hate, lust, laziness, pride. But that is not the point. The point is that Jesus is now handling the matter. The bills must be taken to Him for collection. He has paid the debt and set you free!
Tune in next month for “The Principle Behind It” as we conclude this teaching from “The Renewed Mind.”
Christensen, Larry (1974). The Renewed Mind. Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers
My Dear Friends in Christ,
This month I would like to begin sharing with you an amazing Bible teaching by Pastor Larry Christenson, one of the pioneer leaders of Lutheran Renewal. Pastor Christenson has given us permission to print this powerful, life transforming message from his book “The Renewed Mind”. Take the time to quietly read through this article and allow the Holy Spirit to bring the reality of these truths deep into your mind and heart. I pray you will be wonderfully blessed as you experience in a fresh way the grace and goodness of our Lord Jesus, the NEW landlord.
In His love and Joy,
THE OLD LANDLORD
Think of yourself as living in an apartment house. You live there under a landlord who has made your life miserable. He charges you exorbitant rent. When you can’t pay, he loans you money at a fearful rate of interest, to get you even further into his debt. He barges into your apartment at all hours of the day and night, wrecks and dirties the place up, then charges you extra for not maintaining the premises. Your life is miserable.
Then comes Someone who says, “I’ve taken over this apartment house. I’ve purchased it. You can live here as long as you like, free. The rent is paid up. I am going to be living here with you, in the manager’s apartment.”
What a joy! You are saved! You are delivered out of the clutches of the old landlord!
But what happens? You hardly have time to rejoice in your new-found freedom, when a knock comes at the door. And there he is – the old landlord! Mean, glowering, and demanding as ever. He has come for the rent, he says.
What do you do? Do you pay him? Of course you don’t! Do you go out and pop him on the nose? No – he’s bigger than you are!
You confidently tell him, “You’ll have to take that up with the new Landlord.” He may bellow, threaten, wheedle, and cajole. You just quietly tell him, “Take it up with the new Landlord.” If he comes back a dozen times, with all sorts of threats and arguments, waving legal-looking documents in your face, you simply tell him yet once again, “Take it up with the new Landlord.” In the end he has to. He knows it, too. He just hopes that he can bluff and threaten and deceive you into doubting that the new Landlord will really take care of things.
Now this is the situation of a Christian. Once Christ has delivered you from the power of sin and the devil, you can depend on it: that old landlord will soon come back knocking at your door. And what is your defense? How do you keep him from getting the whip hand over you again? You send him to the new Landlord. You send him to Jesus.
A Personal Testimony
When this first broke in upon me, I was out mowing the lawn. Suddenly I realized the implication of this simple truth: If Christ has set me free, then I am free indeed! I don’t have to entertain all the negative impressions that come knocking at the door of my mind. I don’t have to let that old landlord come barging in, waving all his bills in my face. So I consciously claimed my deliverance in Christ, and then I waited.
Sure enough, the old landlord was right there, knocking at the door. The thought came into my mind: “When are you going to find time for any reading and studying when the fall program begins at church? You are going to be snowed under!” But now I realized that this wasn’t my thought. This was a thought which was trying to infiltrate my mind, get me to accept it, so it could hold a club over my head. This was the old landlord, trying to collect from me a bill marked “Worry.”
“You’ll have to take that up with Jesus,” I told him.
He began to enumerate a few more details, telling me how impossible the fall schedule was going to be. But I told him again, “That may all be true, but will you take it up with Jesus, please?” He went reluctantly. He knew I was right. “Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7)
He didn’t stay away long. He was back a few moments later.
“Say, I want to come in and talk with you about those people that have been telling lies about you.” He had a nice friendly smile on his face. He oozed concern. But I saw what he had behind his back: A big fat bill marked “Self-pity.”
“Take it up with Jesus,” I told him.
“They may get you in real trouble!” His voice took on a little edge, and I saw that he had another bill lurking behind his back marked “Fear.”
The same answer: “Take it up with Jesus.” That’s the way I handle temptation now. Not will-power, not strength of character, not making a flock of resolutions. Just: “Take it to Jesus.”
The old landlord must have come back a couple of hundred times that first hour, while I was out mowing the lawn. I never realized before what a playground for Satan our minds can become. But here’s the point, and the power: we don’t have to let him in! Christ has delivered us, really delivered us. When these thoughts come knocking at the door of our mind, we can quietly send them on to Jesus.
Don’t argue with them. That’s letting them get one foot in the door. (That was Eve’s trouble – she got into a conversation with the Tempter.) Before the conversation even gets under way, quietly and confidently say, “Take that up with Jesus.”
Tune in next month for “Four Practical Tips” as we continue this teaching from “The Renewed Mind.”
Christensen, Larry (1974). The Renewed Mind. Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers
My Dear Friends in Christ,
Happy New Year!
It is so good to know as we step out into the year 2017 to know that Jesus goes before us. That He who is the Light of the World shines His unstoppable light upon our life’s way. We are never alone. He has promised to be with us always. We do not know what the new year brings, but we do know who holds us in the palm of His hand. The weeks of Advent and our celebration of Christmas were especially meaningful for me this past year. “The Call of Christmas” series that we did was a tremendous encouragement to know that God uses the earthen vessels that we are for the wonderful and amazing work of His Kingdom. In Sunday School the children were encouraged with the message of JOY, because anything is possible with God. The memory verse, “Always be joyful because you belong to the Lord, I will say it again. Be joyful!” (Philippians 4:4), speaks wonderfully as we look to the months ahead. It gives me a sense of excitement and anticipation for what the Lord has in store for us.
I want to encourage you to be diligent to stoke the fire of God that burns in your heart. It is important for us to faithfully seek the Lord and to be about the work of the Gospel. Don’t coast; instead stir up the good gifts of the Spirit in you. Come join the adult Sunday School class on Sunday mornings as we study Lee Grady’s book, “Set My Heart on Fire” or attend the Real Church weekly study starting this month, “Hosting the Presence” by Bill Johnson. Join the Seniors’ Bible Study each month as we explore the book of Proverbs. Work on your prayer life, read and study Scripture more this year. Volunteer to do something you have never done before. Expect to see God moving in new and surprising ways! It’s exciting and who knows what miracles lay ahead?
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6.
Together with you on the Great Adventure,
Dear Elmwood Family & Friends,
May these Ten Commandments for Christmas be a joy and blessing in this glorious, wondrous, busy time of year. A very blessed Christmas and a New Year filled with the grace and joy of Jesus.
Love & Peace,
Comfort & Joy,
Pastor Fred & Kai Thoni
Ten Commandments for the Christmas Season
1. Thou shalt remember to keep Christ in Christmas
2. Thou shalt pause in thy business to consider the magnitude of God’s gift of Christ to mankind.
3. Remembering that Mary and Joseph found no room in the inn, thou shalt give Christ the chief room in thy heart.
4. Thou shalt participate in the Christmas activities sponsored by thy church.
5. Thou shalt be generous in thy gifts to foreign missions at Christmas.
6. Thou shalt take time to plan for the happiness of those outside thine own circle of family and friends.
7. Thou shalt enjoy, in unhurried calm, the priceless heritage of Christmas music which exalts the Lord Jesus Christ
8. Thou shalt give of thyself in all gifts, giving not for duty, for reciprocity, or personal satisfaction – but for the simple joy of sharing.
9. Thou shalt remember, with great patience and understanding, all those who serve thee: the salesclerk, the postman, the delivery man, and all the others who bear the physical burden of the holiday season.
10. Thou shalt teach thy children the true meaning of Christmas, of the Prince of Peace, who came to give mankind a way to righteousness and true lasting happiness.
My Dear Friends in Yeshua the Messiah,
“He (Yeshua) did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption…How much more, then, will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” Hebrews 9:12 & 14
“Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Yeshua, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Yeshua Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11
It is with growing excitement that we are able to welcome this month Greg Savitt to Elmwood from Chosen People Ministries to share with us a special presentation of JESUS THE MESSIAH IN THE FALL FEASTS OF ISRAEL. This wonderful and inspiring event will take place on Sunday evening, October 23 at 6:30PM in the Elmwood sanctuary. There is no charge, all are welcome, a free-will offering will be received.
The presentation will be preceded by a Chili Supper in the Elmwood Fellowship Hall at 5:30PM. The cost is $5 per adult and children over 5, with a family maximum of $10. Tickets are available after our worship services and until Sunday, October 16, at the church office.
Many people are familiar with the Spring Festivals of Israel commonly known as Passover and Pentecost. The Fall Festivals - Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot - are less known but were vital parts of the worship of the ancient people of Israel until the Temple was destroyed in 70AD. They are still observed in a modified form to this very day by the Jewish people. Greg Savitt will explain these ancient festivals and reveal how Jesus (Yeshua) is the perfect fulfillment of each one of them.
Rosh Hashanah, also known as the Feast of Trumpets, literally means “Head of the Year”. It marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year. It also marks the beginning of the ten Days of Awe leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The Days of Awe are a period of introspection and repentance in preparation for Yom Kippur. The Day of Atonement is the most solemn day in the Jewish calendar. It is only on this day that the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple and sprinkle blood on the Ark of the Covenant in order for God to remove the sins of His people. Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, is a week-long feast during which the Jewish community builds temporary shelters to remind each generation that their forefathers were nomads, wandering in the desert for forty years.
Plan now to take part in this special night. Bring your family and friends. Don’t forget to buy your tickets for the chili supper. (See page 3 of this newsletter for more details.) I look forward to seeing each of you there.
“For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the Trumpet Call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and left will be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16 -17Waiting with you for the sound of the trumpet,
In chapter 1 of the book of Joshua the Lord tells Joshua to be strong and courageous four times. Obviously, the Lord knew that what He was asking Joshua to do was not easy and that he would need the strength and courage of God. In fact, in Joshua 1:9 the Lord specifically says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” This, friends, is good news. Actually, GREAT news. Life is often hard and we find ourselves becoming anxious and fearful. Knowing that the Lord is always with us, wherever we go, is not just comforting, it is wonderful.
One of the scariest things for many Christians is sharing their faith with someone else. Somewhere along the line, we have convinced ourselves that we must do witnessing perfectly. This probably comes because we want others to know Jesus like we do and we are terrified that we will mess it all up. We are scared to death that the person we are witnessing to will not want to receive Christ, and that they actually will draw further away from Him.
You are not alone in your fears. It is a very common response to witnessing. Together this fall we are going to face this fear on Sunday mornings and study during the adult Sunday School hour William Fay’s great series, “Share Jesus Without Fear”. Read more about this fine study on page 4 in this newsletter. Casting aside our fear we will focus on the glorious truth that sets hearts wonderfully free.
It is exciting to see all the special opportunities that are happening at Elmwood this fall. The other churches and ministries that join us here warmly welcome you to come and share in the great things God is doing here. Together we want to lift high the mighty name of Jesus, cast out fear, and receive strength and courage from the Lord. These are not easy times, but we serve a mighty God. Truly, greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world.
Bring a neighbor, a friend, or a relative to Sunday School and church this month. Be brave, be bold, and invite them to come join you for Bible Study, Sunday worship, or one of the special events coming up. Step out of your comfort zone and see what God will do.
Pressing on in Jesus with you,Pastor Fred
PASTOR’S CORNER - AUGUST 2016
Dear Elmwood Friends and Family,
Summer is speeding by and now August is here. Below is a great article by my friend Lee Grady which I pray encourages you to continually surrender your heart to the on-going sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. I pray that for each of us the Lord Jesus graciously removes anything in our lives that does not glorify God and that ever more clearly Jesus is seen in us personally and corporately. Come Holy Spirit with Your refining fire. Have Your way in us Lord Jesus! Amen.
For His Honor and Glory,
~ Pastor Fred
Fire in My Bones by J. Lee Grady, 6/22/2016
Allow the Holy Spirit to eradicate these bad attitudes from your person.
I was filled with the Holy Spirit 40 years ago this summer, so I wish I could say I have "arrived" at some level of Christian perfection. But the truth is that God is still working on me, sometimes with a shovel and a pickax, and other times with a bulldozer and dynamite. I have learned that the Holy Spirit, our great refiner, never stops stepping on my toes, confronting my sin and exposing my stinking attitudes.
He does this not to shame me or torture me, but to conform me to the image of Jesus. This grueling process is what the Bible calls "sanctification"—a big, theological word that simply means God is serious about burning the junk out of my heart so I can reflect His divine nature. He doesn't mind putting me through the fire because He knows the happy outcome. Sanctification can be painful, but the result is, according to the author of Hebrews, the "peaceful fruit of righteousness" (Heb. 12:11).
When we invite Jesus into our hearts, He moves in—and He does not timidly co-exist with our sin. He is a ruthless warrior, and He goes on a loving rampage until every area of our rebellious hearts have been conquered. He slays our pride, kills our greed and shows no mercy to any sinful behavior that has controlled us. Your choice is to cooperate with this process, or to drag it out longer than necessary because you don't want Him to meddle with your private life.
Below are five attitudes God wants to change in all of us. Bad attitudes can keep us out of our promised land. They can hinder God's work in our lives. They can quench the Holy Spirit. If you have not yielded these attitudes to Him, let the Holy Spirit move in and begin the process of demolition.
1. Stubbornness – Some Christians approach God with hands joyfully upraised; others keep their arms defiantly crossed. Is your daily prayer: "Not my will, but Yours be done"? Or do you place strict conditions on your obedience? God wants surrender. Don't be a stubborn foot-dragger or a Jonah who runs when God calls you. Some believers I know started out with a carefree heart of surrender, but they grew cautious and doubtful when things didn't work out they way they expected. Quit sulking. Get back in the game, take off your parking brake and move forward with Him.
2. Negativity – Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, but you would never know this when you are around certain Christians. They never learned to rejoice in the hard times. They never see the silver lining around any cloud. They always expect the worst. Their faith is extinguished by fear and doubt. Jesus died on the cross so we could experience unspeakable joy. If you have carried around a heavy blanket of sadness all your life, let God exchange it for a garment of praise.
3. Self-centeredness –The essence of sin is selfishness, but this attitude should not characterize Spirit-filled Christians. When we are baptized, we become a part of the church and we learn to love each other, serve each other and esteem each other higher than ourselves. We no longer have permission to be isolated loners. The Holy Spirit teaches us to say: "It's not about me." Quit viewing life through your own needs. Learn to put others first.
4. Woundedness – We've all been hurt. But real success in life is determined not by our circumstances but by how we face them. God calls us to forgive, no matter how much pain we endured when we were betrayed, disrespected, violated or overlooked. God wants to wipe away your tears, but He can't heal you if you hate the people who hurt you. Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. Don't wait until you have a warm, fuzzy feeling for your enemy. Make the decision to love anyway, and the feelings will come later.
5. Fault-finding – Philippians 2:14 commands us: "Do all things without murmuring and disputing" (MEV). But since the church began 2,000 years ago, there have been finger-pointers and whiners who have slowed the progress of the gospel with their petty complaints. There are 686,000 species of insects in the world, and billions of them are buzzing at the same time; in the same way there will always be critics buzzing with their latest accusations and opinions. Yet the world is not changed by insects but by people who have been transformed by Christ. Don't join the tragic chorus of small-minded critics. Be an encourager instead.
God wants holiness. But some of us don't realize that we can't have true holiness until we surrender attitudes that are contrary to His nature. It's not enough just to let go of sinful behaviors. He wants you to be like Jesus inside and out. He wants truth in the inner parts. Let Him take a sledgehammer to your bad attitudes.J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma.
Dear Elmwood Family and Friends,
I shared the following article by Dave Odom, from Duke University, with the Elmwood church council at the June council meeting. In many ways it describes Elmwood. It is important for us to see ourselves as part of the larger picture of Christianity in the United States in the 21st Century. It is also important to remember that we exist as a congregation to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in all that we do and say. Please join the Elmwood church council as we pray with full trust and faith for continual wisdom and direction for our congregation. Pray that we will always be faithful, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and the eternal truth of His Holy Word.
Love and Blessings Always,
~ Pastor Fred
By Dave Odom, Executive director, Leadership Education at Duke Divinity
Small-membership congregations are often worried about the future. They struggle to get visitors to join them in worship. Those that do attend come only occasionally. The cost of maintenance, salaries, benefits and more is ever-rising. The children of the congregation grow up and join the fast-growing big churches.
Data from the National Congregations Study indicates that the majority of small churches are feeling this pinch.
Between 1998 and 2012, the number of regular participants, both adults and children, in the average congregation decreased from 80 to 70. The study confirms the suspicion of many small-membership church leaders that since 1998, more and more people are gravitating to larger congregations. In the 2012 study, half of all church attenders go to a congregation of more than 400 in regular participation, with an annual budget of $450,000. But such large-membership congregations represent only 7 percent of all American congregations.
What are the leaders of struggling small-membership congregations to do?
First, remember the distinctive gift of being a small church.
I first heard this idea in the first edition of Anthony Pappas’ classic Alban Institute text “Entering the World of the Small Church.” In small-membership congregations, Christians are formed through relationships. The children learn by being with the saints of the church. The classes and programs are more like back-porch conversations. Relationships are important in any church, but their formational power is the central, defining characteristic of the small church.
During the 1950s, the culture in the United States created conditions in which congregations grew quickly and were able to build buildings, hire full-time pastors, add other pastors and staff, start programs, and more. Denominations blessed all this activity and urged small churches to become big ones. Often, churches were counseled to hire the staff first and reassured that the members would follow. As a result, small congregations began to do and do and do. Even in the boom days, such churches struggled to fill all the volunteer jobs the programs created.
Today, there are few places in the United States that continue to support the conditions for small-membership churches to act like big churches. Most of us live in communities where congregations are ignored, unless the congregation is very large. Visitors don’t come to the doors of most churches. Neighbors don’t welcome visits by church members inviting them to services. A system designed for the 1950s does not work for congregations or their communities any longer.
Small-membership congregations have the opportunity to return to the basics by asking themselves some crucial questions.
What activities are most meaningful to those who attend? What activities nurture the life of the congregation? What do members do that invites a deeper love of God and neighbor? What would be required to focus more intentional energy on those things? What could be eliminated to provide more opportunity to invest in them?A second set of questions is equally important. What is that one thing the church does that makes a distinctive witness to those outside the congregation? Why is this a distinctive witness? Who are the people it reaches, and how does it address their needs?
A church is not a social club, but it must engage the community outside its membership. Its purpose is to be a sign, a taste or an instrument of God’s reign. Being Christian community for one another requires engaging with those outside the church.
Ideally, one of the congregation’s most meaningful activities that nurtures its being is closely related to what it can offer to the community. For example, cutting firewood can be a ministry for homebound members of the church as well as a witness and service to neighbors.
The purpose of the witness is not to recruit church members. It is to enact the message of God’s grace and hope to a world that is not paying attention to God or God’s congregations.
Of course, most congregations already do such acts of witness and service, but to make a difference at a scale that the acts can be noticed, small-membership congregations need to focus their energy on a particular project. Figuring out the focus and scale of activity can be challenging, but it is a way forward that does not depend on a pastor or a certain size building. It depends on relationships and the gifts of the members.With that vision in mind, the church faces questions of what kind of staff, building and more that it needs to maintain a vibrant community life that also serves as a distinctive witness. This is new territory for most congregations, but one that is much more energizing than struggling to keep everything going in a survival mode.
Dear Elmwood Family and Friends,
Summer is upon us and June is a good time to take stock and do an update on what is happening here at Elmwood.
First, I want to say THANK YOU to all those who came to our work day on Saturday, May 21. Under the direction of the Board of Education the church kitchen was deep cleaned by a host of angelic beings (or women with cleaning rags). Another mighty troop did outside work, cleaning windows, trimming grass and weeds, and overhauling the front landscaping. To top it all off, many members from Grove Community Church swooped in and repainted the triple Sunday School rooms and nursery, giving both areas a fresh new look. This was Phase Two of Grove’s love in action to Elmwood, as last month they converted the Youth Room into a new Infant Nursery. We must also say thank you to Michael and Martina Ashworth for their generous gift of having the duct work for the Sanctuary, office area, and side rooms professionally cleaned. This is greatly appreciated. Thank you everyone for your gracious love and care for Elmwood revealed in such wonderful ways.
Secondly, I want to bring you all up to date on the life and ministry of our guest churches. Conquistando Fronteras (CF) continues to meet Sunday mornings at 11:00AM in our fellowship hall. Pastors Francisco and Luis seek to minister to their precious flock with great love and compassion. They regularly have women’s and men’s meetings, as well as special times of counseling and prayer. CF has graciously offered to take care of the lawn mowing again this summer. This is such a great blessing. This past Saturday they had a special birthday party out on the lawn and in the fellowship hall for Pastor Luis and Laura’s son, Samuel, who turned two. Happy birthday Samuel!
Church meets Sunday mornings at 9:00AM in the fellowship hall. Prior to their service time they ‘prayer-walk’
throughout the entire building. Their
congregation is growing and they are beginning to discuss and explore future
options for their ministry. They too,
have begun to have times of fellowship, prayer and counseling ministry, and
teaching during the week.
Grove Community Church is also growing significantly, particularly with a baby boom. As Pastor Josh shared with the Elmwood congregation recently, they would never be where they are without the love and support of Elmwood. As a dynamic group of young adults and children they are passionately seeking to be effective ministers of the Gospel. This summer they are returning to Elmwood for weekly worship on Sunday evenings at 5:00PM. They will be having monthly fellowship picnic BBQs in the backyard. They also do monthly outreach/evangelism activities. They plan to shift their model of ministry this fall, and will continue to have their weekly house groups, but they plan to continue to worship at Elmwood each Sunday evening.
The Langford Home-school Co-op has had another successful year meeting Mondays here at Elmwood. The Substance Moms Group (see special thank you on page 2) will be moving this fall into the newly completed Substance ministry site and not returning to Elmwood. The other ministries and organizations nesting here in the big old branches of Elmwood are all so grateful for the love and support they have received here with us. Together we seek to be about our Heavenly Father’s business, proclaiming the wonderful Good News of Jesus Christ and revealing His love and grace through all that we say and do.
Have a wonderful summer, remember to be faithful in worship if you are traveling on the weekends, and always keep Elmwood in your prayers.
All for His glory and honor,