Merry Christmas from the Regional Synod of Mid-America! We pray that you and your ministries are blessings to those who are seeking Jesus this Christmas.
The #WeAreSpeaking movement is gaining momentum. The Reformed Church in America is issuing a call to the church to end harassment, abuse, and sexual violence against women and girls. To learn more, click HERE.
General Synod Council urging restraint in sending overtures which require action at General Synod 2019. The formation of the Vision 2020 Team reflected the 2018 General Synod’s consensus that the RCA cannot realistically continue to do “business as usual.” The proposed change to the 2019 General Synod’s time allocation would constructively signal a disruption of the status quo that the work of this team represents. It would begin to prepare us for General Synod 2020, when the team will bring its final report and recommendation. In place of overtures requesting action, classes and regional synods might consider sending a letter to the General Synod that would not entail floor debate while still expressing concerns and/or viewpoints. To read more from GSC Moderator Lee DeYoung, click HERE.
A story about Renewing Life Church, an RCA church plant in Fergusen, MO was recently featured on RCA.org and will be published in an upcoming issue of the RCA Today magazine. Click HERE to read it.
The Hope College Board of Trustees names Matthew A. Scogin ‘02 the 14th president of Hope College. To read more about the new president, click HERE.
Proposed Change to Assessments: After many years with our current funding structure, a possible overhaul to assessments is in the works. The proposed funding structure, called Covenant Shares, is based on contributions rather than membership numbers. (You may have heard about it at a fall classis meeting.) The committee working on this proposal would like your feedback before bringing their final report. Fill out their survey by the end of the month to register your thoughts.
The RCA’s Board of Benefits Services Employee Assistance Program provides free, confidential Christian counseling either at at an outpatient clinic in your area (Pine Rest in Grand Rapids), or via an online telehealth session. Up to 3 sessions per issue are provided at no cost to any employee of an RCA church. Some common issues addressed are depression, anxiety, work-related problems, marital issues, family issues, substance abuse, and others. The 24 hour hotline number is (833) 244-2490. For more information click HERE.
News from Camp Manitoqua High School students are invited to participate in STAND OUT, a leadership retreat hosted by Camp Manitoqua & Retreat Center on January 25 – 26, 2019. Surrounded with opportunities to lead, Christians must look to the Bible and Jesus example of leadership. Join us as we study, ask questions and work to answer questions as well. Additional information and registration availabile at Manitoqua.org/standout or call the office at 815.469.2319.
Retreat season has begun at Camp Manitoqua & Retreat Center. At this time, we are offering groups a 15% discount on any retreat booked for December 2018 or January 2019. Please contact Todd at 815.469.2319, or at email@example.com for availability.
Apply for Summer Staff at Camp Manitoqua! We are looking for ministry-minded college students who love kids and have a desire to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are taking applications and would encourage you to apply today! For more information visit our www.manitoqua.org.
THOUGHTS FROM WAYNE
A Light that Shines in the Darkness…
Think for a moment about the gas stations you use to fill up your vehicles. Do you choose a specific gas station based on the quality of the gasoline? I doubt it! My guess is that most people choose to fill up at a gas station for other reasons.
The place where we have a home in Florida is a growing community with four gas stations built quite closely together on a major highway. Wawa is the newest station where loyal customers shop for coffee, breakfast sandwiches, hoagies and gas. Some devotees sport Wawa tattoos; others treasure pictures of a smiling groom and bride married at a store. Fresh food is what drives repeat business for this convenience store. The new Speedway gas station offers a “Speedy Rewards” program where customers can receive bonus rewards on gas, food, beverages, merchandise and more. The new RaceTrac gas station has the tagline: “Making people’s lives simpler and more enjoyable.” This store has the cash register area located at the center of the store, which makes it easier for employees to more readily serve customers. The older BP station had to find something unique to attract people, so it installed a Freddy’s Ice Cream Shop. After all, nothing like ice cream to motivate people to buy gas.
There is an installation company that specializes in lighting for gas stations. Picking up on the need for people to feel safe in a well-lighted place, they have started replacing traditional high-intensity discharge (HID) lights with LED bulbs and fixtures on the canopies of gas stations. Why? Brighter, crisper light gives the customer the illusion that it’s the safest place around and studies show more people pull in. When it comes to crime, it’s evident that there’s an appeal to darkness. Greater visibility means a greater chance of getting caught.
We all have a basic fear of the darkness. We want to feel secure and safe in the light, and we do everything we can to avoid the darkness, from its big boogie monsters to its misty mystery.
Unfortunately, whenever there is light there is always darkness which seeks to overcome it. I try not to let the Advent and Christmas season go by without reading about Herod’s response to the light of the star that had appeared. He sent the wise men to Bethlehem to do some detective work. A jealous king (who later had his own son executed out of fear that he would take over the throne) had heard about this new king and asked the wise men to let him know of his whereabouts. When they did not, his rage led him to slaughter every child he could get his hands on. I read that story every year because it’s a prelude to the life of Jesus, a light which shines in the darkness which is so powerful that evil forces try to put it out. From day one, this little baby faced persecution that ultimately led him to the cross. But darkness can never put out the light.
Thank God that the story of Herod shows us that God’s light has and always will triumph over darkness. John 1 reminds us that “what has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light for all people, the light shines in the darkness, and darkness did not overcome it.”
You see, the deepest meaning of Christmas is not a baby still wrapped up like a package under the tree. It’s a light that lasts all year long. It is the triumph of light over darkness, love over hate, life over death. It’s ultimately the victory of the empty grave over the cross.
We need not fear the darkness or let anyone else capitalize on our fears. The light of Christ illumines our lives so powerfully, so wonderfully, that no pain or health struggle we bear, or persecution we face or emptiness we experience can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” John 12:35-36
Wishing you a joyous Christmas!
— Wayne Van Regenmorter
LINKS YOU MAY FIND USEFUL
Becoming Spiritual First Responders – Amid an ever-increasing opioid crisis, clergy and their churches are becoming first responders and leading the way in ministering to this with addictions.
Connecting New Church Members – What do people feel in your church? Do they leave your church no better than when they walked in the door? Do you have lots of new people and yet your church doesn’t grow? Do just as many people walk in the door as those that walk out the back door?
Want to Love As A Church? Start with a Persona – our church needs to define “personas” to have a full understanding of their needs, concerns, and goals in order to provide them (out of love) with solutions and/or paths to goals. Instead, the church has found that our overriding perception is what we’re against, what we’re trying to change in people, and ultimately a negative vibe. It’s a long way from love. No wonder why the community isn’t attracted to our message! Instead, let’s decide on some groups in our community, define them, pursue them, and love them. Use that momentum to move to other groups and let your whole community know you love them, too.