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Loving Our Neighbors, Jesus-Style

Loving Our Neighbors, Jesus-Style

I've lived in Montana long enough to know that we are nowhere near being done with snow for the year, but it has most-certainly felt more like Spring lately. Finally! Warmer weather has emerged and the snow piles are receding to remind us that the grass has been there all along, patiently waiting to re-emerge. 

What a welcomed sight!

My young family has been suffering from cabin fever for about a month now, so it has been incredible to get back to riding bikes, taking walks, and playing outside. We often celebrate the end of winter through signs like seeing our first robin or tulip of the Spring, but the other phenomenon of this season is the appearance of our neighbors again, for the first time in months. We've all re-emerged from the winter cocoons of our warm homes to rejoin the land of the living. I've missed seeing our neighbors, catching up across the fence, and casually chatting as we meet at the mailbox.

Which has left me processing my role as a neighbor. 

Jesus leaves no doubt about what it means to be a faithful follower of God: we MUST love our neighbors. You want to love God...then love your neighbor. They're one-in-the-same. And while 'neighbor' could certainly be interpreted broadly, with everyone being our 'neighbor,' I'm convinced that when Jesus commands us to 'love our neighbors,' he specifically means the people next door. On our block. In our neighborhood. The people we rub shoulders with each day. The people walking their dog past our home. 

Jesus wants me to love Jerry and Laurie, Greg and Trisha, and Carol across the street. Jesus wants me to be a presence of love, generosity, and hospitality in the place he has located us. On our block. In our apartment building or dorm. At our local school or park. Jesus wants me to intentionally engage with my neighbors, getting to know them as a means of ministering to their specific needs. 

At the very least, Jesus would want me to know their names!

So, how will you take seriously the call to love your neighbors this Spring and Summer...now that you'll actually see them more often? Do you know your neighbors' names? Do you know anything about them? Have you stopped to talk and listen? Are any of them struggling and could use some help? How might God be calling you to be a presence of blessing in your geographical context, working toward the flourishing of your place?

And more overtly spiritual, who goes to church on your block? Who knows Jesus...and who doesn't? Who could use the presence of God in their lives? Who could benefit from the blessing of deep Christian community? Who would come to an Easter service if you invited them? So, will you be willing to talk to your neighbors about faith, church, and how Jesus has impacted your life in a meaningful way? Will you take the risk of being an inviter -- to the challenging, yet compelling journey with Jesus -- and to a church community that is striving to faithfully take that adventure? Let's commit to the God-ordained and Jesus-demonstrated calling to love our neighbors.

"Loving Our Neighbors, Jesus-Style"  By: Pastor Jason Bowker

"Loving Our Neighbors, Jesus-Style"
By: Pastor Jason Bowker

 

Mission Northwest Note: The reading selections for January’s Leadership Learning Communities were focused on the topic “Neighboring”. These books urge churches to train their people to befriend their neighbors, to really love them just as Jesus taught His disciples to love their neighbors. These caring relationships open doors for conversations about Christ. It’s a simple concept, but an effective one. Each LLC was encouraged to pick one of three selections to study:

 

  • The Neighboring Church: Getting Better at What Jesus Says Matters Most by Rick Rusaw & Brian Mavis

  • The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door by Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon

  • Neighborhood Mapping: How to Make Your Church Invaluable to the Community by Dr. John Fuder

Haiti Missions Trip 2011 Report

by Gene Gentry

 

August 2-10 six people from various churches in the Northwest went to Haiti to build desks, tables and chalk boards for the school at Grand Goave, Haiti. The January 2011 earthquake completely destroyed the Siloe School. Since that time with the help of Haitian crews and many volunteers from across the United States 13 rooms have been nearly finished. There remains only the addition of the doors and windows made of rebar for the last seven rooms to be finished. Our team was asked to make 30 desks, 30 tables and 14 chalk boards for the last seven classrooms. That was the amount of money available to get students into the class rooms for fall start-up of classes. In reality that was all that we had time to complete during the time we were in Haiti. A team from Colorado and Haitian volunteers joined us to accomplish that task.
 
As we left Spokane we were concerned about the weather. There was a possibility that Tropical Storm Emily would cause a problem.  We decided to press on as planes continued to fly into Haiti.  Emily slowed and eventually dissipated near the Dominican Republic. She provided us with two or three cooler days. What a blessing that was.
 
When we went into Haiti we carried enough nuts, bolts and screws to build 100 desks along with our tools. Our task was not only to build desks, but to work along side of Haitian volunteers to help them understand the power tools they were not familiar with. One of the most significant jobs as far as I was concerned was to teach the two volunteers who were chosen to use the paint sprayer. An important task in maintaining a sprayer is to clean it thoroughly after each use. EJ (Elisabeth Jane) has worked as a professional sprayer. Her primary task was to teach proper use and cleaning of the sprayer. The first day that we sprayed chalk boards I told the two volunteers that the sprayer had to be cleaned before we broke for our noon meal and break. The next day near the end of the day the older volunteer, Precois, who is also a carpenter said, “We have to clean the sprayer before we go home.” He had grasped the importance of cleaning so that this piece of equipment can be used time and time again.
 
Some of the most significant times for the team were the spontaneous interactions we had with our Haitian brothers and sisters. On Saturday afternoon we had the opportunity to assist in conversations at the Christian English School. I had the first year students and did some very basic stuff. The other volunteers were in higher-level classes and the conversations took very interesting twists. Several of the volunteers were asked why they were Christians. Adam who had numerous tattoos was asked if he was a Christian.  The volunteers had to address questions that they had not anticipated which made them think about their relationship to Jesus.
 
Much interaction took place as we worked together with the Haitian people. We also developed some good relationships with the team from Colorado that had come to build rubble houses. I was blessed to see friends that I had made during my previous trips to Grand Goave. This is my fourth trip in two years. Many of our experiences came during unplanned times.
 
One day my grandson, Brolin, was not feeling very well. We were working on table legs. He took a break. After a while I wondered what was going on. I asked someone where Brolin was. He was teaching German to someone. He had studied German the past year and was using that skill. One night I went up on the roof of the volunteer house to see what part of the team was doing. Most of the team was sitting there while my son-in-law, Ben, taught Jean Pierre Hebrew. Ben grew up in Israel and they spoke Hebrew in the home. As I reflected on this Hebrew class I recalled seeing some Hebrew on a chalk board while I was in Haiti last year. Jean Pierre is very interested in languages and took advantage of every opportunity to use and learn them.
 
I want to thank those churches and individuals who made this trip possible. Several churches and individuals enabled volunteers to make the trip. Others made significant contributions to desks, chalk boards and tables. Park Heights did yeoman service in getting hardware together for 100 desks. Deer Park Open Door and Immanuel Baptist in Spokane enabled us to take tools that had been requested for the tasks to be done.  hanks too, to Charles Revis, the Spokane LLC and others in the Region of the Northwest for getting the word out. 
 
God is good. He blessed all who went on the trip. We were also a blessing to those we encountered in Haiti. Some couldn’t go this year who wanted to go. Some want to go again. I’m expecting more opportunities in the future.
 
P.S. If interested I will volunteer to visit and share with your church about this trip. I have already shared our experience with my Deer Park church.  Perhaps this way interest may be built for the next trip. You can reach me through the ABCNW Region Office.
 

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N.T. Wright on Resurrection and Mission

Dr. Charles Revis, Executive Minister, ABC of the Northwest

N. T. Wright's book, Surprised by Hope, is full of biblical insight on the resurrection and the ascension in light of God's plans for our future. Throughout the book he makes the point that the hope of resurrection is not an escape plan into a future realm called heaven. Rather, it is the first fruit of a great transformation which will eventually result in a new earth and a new heaven. Through the atoning death of Christ and His resurrection power the entire world will eventually be completely overhauled. Until that day we are called to join God in expanding the reign of Christ in this world while anticipating that His reign will be fully consummated in the world to come. In other words, resurrection, is not only a basis for our present and future hope, it is a call to engage in mission. Here's a short quote to whet your appetite for more:

"[The resurrection and ascension] are designed not to take us away from this earth but rather to make us agents of the transformation of this earth...

Faced with his beautiful and powerful creation in rebellion, God longed to set it right, to rescue it from continuing corruption and impending chaos and to bring it back into order and fruitfulness. God longed, in other words, to reestablish his wise sovereignty over the whole creation, which would mean a great act of healing and rescue.

He did not want to rescue humans from creation any more than he wanted to rescue Israel from the Gentiles. He wanted to rescue Israel in order that Israel might be a light to the Gentiles, and he wanted thereby to rescue humans in order that humans might be his rescuing stewards over creation...

Atonement, redemption, and salvation are what happen on the way because engaging in this work demands that people themselves be rescued from the powers that enslave the world in order that they can in turn be rescuers. To put it another way, if you want to help inaugurate God's kingdom, you must follow in the way of the cross, and if you want to benefit from Jesus's saving death, you must become part of his Kingdom project.

Heaven's rule, God's rule, is thus to be put into practice in the world, resulting in salvation in both the present and the future, a salvation that is both for humans and, through saved human, for the wider world. This is the solid basis for the mission of the church."

But you are the chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God's instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you--from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted. ~ 1 Peter 2:9-10 Message

2010 © Dr. Charles Revis, ABC Northwest
[This article is from Dr. Revis’ blog, www.missionnorthwest.blogspot.com]

Haiti Mission Trip - Gene Gentry

Dear Friends who are interested in the Haiti Mission Trip:

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I returned from Haiti almost two weeks ago.  I want to share the experience of the Northwest team, myself and the situation with my back.  Normally teams go for about a week to Gran Goave, Haiti.  The team from the Northwest departed July 23rd and returned on July 31.  We had only three of us from the northwest so we were joined by three people from New York.  We had a great team.  We were the second team to use the new volunteer house instead of sleeping in tents.  There was much needed to make the house a home but we were out of the storms which was a blessing.   We decided to make the house more comfortable and that was partially done while we were there.

Midway through our time at Gran Goave we were joined by a team of six from Ohio.  This was the third team lead by Harry Rittenhouse since the first big earthquake on January 12.  I have worked with Harry off and on over a 20 year period.  It was a pleasure to work with him and his team once again.  I stayed on until August 5 and came out with that team.

Our primary task in Haiti was to work with the school which is being built for 350 students.  Those among us who were physically able worked with the Haitians pouring cement for the bond beams.  That included mixing, transporting in a wheel barrow, putting it in a bucket and passing the bucket up a ladder to people on a platform who were pouring it into the forms.  We did this for the last three rooms that are currently under construction.  Since I left in May the first two rooms have been completed up through the pouring of the ceiling which will be the floor of the second story.  Floors still need to be poured and windows installed on the front side of the classrooms.  After that additional classrooms need to be constructed.

Those of us who were not up to the physical exertion of the cement process plus Andy, our volunteer carpenter, worked at a variety of tasks including building a structure to prevent rains from entering the staff house from the second floor.  The second floor had collapsed during the earthquakes.  We also painted the staff house and got water to all of the faucets and fixtures.  In the volunteer house we got electricity to all of the rooms.  When we arrived, electricity was in three out of six rooms.  We have electricity when the generator runs.  When we left we still needed to get the water fixed so the water tank didn't  run dry when no one was using water.

Medical people had the opportunity to do some clinics with Tori, the nurse.  Some of the team helped to reorganize the pharmacy.

Everyone had a good time and felt we had accomplished much.  We had some people who had to slow down because of working too hard and not drinking enough water.  Fortunately no IV's were necessary.

When I left for Haiti, several of you were concerned about my back. I purchased a flexible ticket so it could be changed if I couldn't go or if it was necessary to change the return flight.  I received a shot prior to going to help control the pain.  It worked marvelously.  It lasted for about a week after my return from Haiti.  I actually changed my ticket prior to departure so that I stayed longer than the team from the northwest and came out with Harry's team on the 5th.  I was able to facilitate several things for both teams.

The New York team leader is trying to get a medical team organized for January.  I think we will try to get a team together again sometime in the next year.  I saw my back surgeon today and we are scheduling surgery for the end of September.  I had hoped to go back in October but that is not to be, as he said I would have to take it easy for a couple of months.  He asked if I had planned another trip and said "not until I saw you."  So those of you who worry about me, rest assured, I will get the back taken care of first.

Andy Moll from Lynnwood and Jan Simpson from Spokane were excited about the trip and Andy thinks he can get some others to go another time, probably summer.  Several people who couldn't go this time want to be kept in the loop so there is a better chance that we can pull a few more people together from the northwest for another mission trip.  Several people are already considering that possibility.

I hope this answers questions that you might have.  If you do not want to be kept in the loop let me know otherwise I will give you occasional updates, especially as plans develop for future mission trips.

Blessings,

Gene Gentry.

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Uniformity, One Happy Church Family and Resistance to Mission

Dr. Charles Revis, Executive Minister, ABC of the Northwest

One effective strategy for initiating change in a declining church is to start a second worship service with modern music, projection system and informal liturgy. The point of the service is to connect with a younger generation who for the most part relate more readily to modern music styles. Research has demonstrated this is one among a handful of strategic moves that has the potential to turn around a declining church.  A significant number of ABCNW churches have made this move along with a renewed focus on reaching the lost. In many instances growth has resulted. Even with such positive outcomes and clear communication that the traditional service will continue as usual, resistance can be vigorous.

Bill Easum writes in Unfreezing Moves, “The easiest way numerically to grow a church and thereby change the system is to begin a worship service with a different style. Be forewarned. It is also the easiest way to start a riot and get run out of the congregation.” (p. 97)

Resisting a worship service designed to reach a different generational and cultural target group reveals that the church truly doesn’t value reaching new people. Amidst the sounds of protest the true values of the congregation bubble to the surface There is little desire to exegete the missing generations and discover ways to connect with them. The true value that emerges with such vigorous resistance is what Thom Bandy has labeled “the cult of harmony.”

The cult of harmony is usually cloaked in “family talk.” One will hear innocuous sounding statements like “We are one happy family” and “We are a friendly, caring family of believers”. The pastor who introduces a second service will be told that he or she has divided the family into factions and that’s why everyone is upset “ Never mind that some of these church factions have existed before Noah built the ark, but the new service gets blamed for “dividing the family".
The highly prized yet elusive value of harmony is grounded in nostalgia for a by-gone era when the culture was more homogenous and so were churches. This nostalgia distorts what life in the 50’s was really like, projecting backwards the fiction that all generations of that era shared common values and the same taste in music until Elvis came along and wrecked it all. Dare I mention the culture shifting impact of the Beatles a mere 44 years ago.

The cult of harmony is motivated by a desire to recapture a feeling that has been lost in the wild cultural shifts and chaos of today's emerging post-modern world. For those stuck on harmony, the church has become the one place to relive the nostalgic memories of the past. If truth be told these memories would bear little resemblance to the real past. The missional value of reaching the unchurched is squashed by the “one harmonious family” value. So rather than being a people intent on mission the congregation settles for maintaining the cult of harmony. To the young seeker such a church feels like a religious museum, a spiritual relic left over from 1965.

Church controllers use ‘family talk” to stymie change including the addition of a second service. They believe they are playing a biblical card when they accuse the pastor of “dividing the family” by adding the new service. After all, the Apostle Peter refers to the church as the “family of God” (1 Peter 4:7) and the Apostle Paul said that the whole family in heaven and earth derived its name from the Father (1 Timothy 3:4). In using this language they assume that most everyone will agree that the highest priority for the church family is unity.

This “family” metaphor requires critical reflection. If it’s such a compelling image of the church it should appear often in scripture, especially in the Pauline epistles. To the contrary, Paul used it rarely, twice to be exact and always in a universal sense (Galatians 6:10, Ephesians 3:15). He never described an individual congregation as a "family.” Peter uses it once in reference to judgment beginning with the family of God (1 Peter 4:17). Again the reference is universal, not in a localized sense. The author of Hebrews uses the family metaphor to teach that Jesus and His followers share a familial relationship (Hebrews 2:11). That’s the extent to which the NT uses the “family” metaphor. It is never used to describe an individual congregation.
Paul’s preferred metaphor for the church is “body.” A concordance search reveals numerous references. Examine these closer and certain themes arise:

  • The church is one body comprised of variously unique and different members (Romans 12:4-7)
  • The body is a unit composed of people from every kind of ethnic and social background (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)
  • It takes many varying parts each ministering according to its unique giftedness for the body to function effectively (1 Corinthians 12:14-27)
  • The church is a body with Christ as its head who constantly fills it with Himself and empowers its growth (Ephesians 1:22-23, Colossians 1:18)
  • The body is unified around the purposes of Christ, starting at ground zero with the command to publish the Good News (Ephesians 3:6)

These biblical references demonstrate that church unity was never meant to be about uniformity. Rather, the church as a body of disciples would be a widely diverse people engaging in a wide variety of ministries, worshipping in various styles, while trusting that its unity was fused in Jesus Christ and His purposes.

Now please do not misunderstand me. I value the “life together” that is a characteristic of healthy churches. Whether we call it “community” or “family”, the sense of belonging and support we find in a vital congregation is important to our spiritual lives.
However, the “one uniform family” value should not be the church’s preeminent reason for existence or even its unifying factor. Rather, the glue that binds should be the mission of reaching lost people with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Being on mission together to reach the world for Christ is the one driving value the Scriptures consistently affirm for the church (Matt 28:19-20, Acts 1:7). Various worship services and widely divergent ministries flow out of this norm. Unity of purpose assumes priority over uniformity of style and taste. The “family” unifies around the common mission that living out the Great Commission is the church's very reason d’être.

Of course there will be those who cry out, “We no longer know everyone around here.” That cry will send us off in search for biblical affirmation of yet another value contending for preeminence in the congregation (which I will not take on in this article). When was knowing everyone gathered under the same roof a biblical expectation or value? If some are singing modern praise songs while others are singing Fanny Crosby at two different worship hours within the same congregation, what does that matter as long as increasingly more people are able to give praise to God in the language of their heart?

The predominant unifier in the church should always be our love for Jesus Christ, and our passion for reaching those who yet do not know His marvelous grace. That's what the “family” should be all about, a highly functioning body that is effective in reaching the world with the Good News of Jesus Christ, and makes it job number one.

Originally published August 2007 © Dr. Charles Revis, ABC Northwest