Please pray for the Reformed Church in America’s General Synod (and especially the delegates from across our region) taking place June 9-14 on the campus of Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, IL. For more information including the General Synod Workbook and a link to the livestream to watch as it happens, click here.
Many of you know that the Syrian Refugee Crisis is ongoing (over 5 years) and has affected 12 million people. While the tragedy has come and gone from our national news stream, the global refugee crisis is still the largest humanitarian crisis/disaster in decades. The situation has troubled and confused me for the past few years. I have wanted to respond, but I didn’t know how to respond and where to direct my energy.
On June 18 & 19 Christ Community Church, Lemont, IL is partnering with World Vision to raise awareness and respond in thoughtful and compassionate ways. World Vision is the largest (non-government) provider of aid in the crisis. They are also compassionately Christian in their response and leadership. One aspect of this partnership will be a Virtual Reality Experience called “Surviving Syria.”
The exhibit uses virtual reality goggles to guide participants on a 10 minute experience inside the life of a refugee. We are making this open to individuals, families and groups outside our church on Saturday night (5-7pm) and Sunday afternoon (12-3pm). For more information or to reserve your 15 minute time slot, click HERE.
News from Camp Manitoqua Renewal. Reprieve. Retreat. Come to Camp Manitoqua & Retreat Center for your next retreat. Whether the event is for women, men or youth, we have a variety of day and overnight facilities and programs to accommodate your needs. From paintball, ropes course, food service and amenities, we can work with your group to build a memorable experience. Ask about the RCA discount available upon inquiry. Contact Ken at firstname.lastname@example.org or 815.469.2319.
STORIES OF CELEBRATION
We share stories of celebration to glorify God. We hope these stories inspire and encourage others in our region. This month’s story comes from Pastor John Hill – First Reformed Church of DeMotte, IN
First (Reformed) church of Demotte has had highs and lows over the last 124 years. The last decade had been pretty tough. After a few years of slow decline from a peak of 600 people a weekend, in 2002 the church decided to begin focussing on transforming culture within to reach people outside. It was a long hard process that resulted in over a decade of struggle and decline to under 200 people per weekend.
About two years ago we called a new pastor and began to experience the full joy of reaching people far from God. We began seeing new families fill our formerly empty rows. We focussed on preaching the gospel in a simple clear and understandable way and we saw hundreds of professions. We outgrew our old building and began in faith building a new one.
This last Sunday we celebrated our grand opening with dozens of salvations and 922 in service. It was great to see God’s faithfulness and to see his word fulfilled: “When I am lifted up I will draw all men unto myself.” At the end of the day church is simply about people far from God being filled with life in Christ. We are so thankful for all the families that put aside their personal preferences so that we could begin fulfilling the commission God has given us to make disciples once again. What a joy it has been to see the legacy we have worked so hard to build be passed to future generations.
To churches that are struggling we would challenge you to lay down your desires and preferences as Christ has done for each of us so that he can make disciples through us. It has not been easy for us, it still is not sometimes, but the joy of new life in Christ sure makes it worth it. Thank you Jesus!
THOUGHTS FROM WAYNE
The Power of 4…
Dr. Pamela Ovwigho began her career in research focusing on poverty and family violence. Over the years the focus of Pamela’s work began to change as she started praying for God to help her find a way to use her research skills in ministry. A door of opportunity opened when Dr. Ovwigho received an email from a research division that wanted to know why so many people own Bibles, but so few read them. Now it is 10 years later and over 200,000 people across 20+ countries, from all different faiths and walks of life have been surveyed. People were asked questions about prayer, sacred texts, their beliefs and their practices. From the accumulated collection of interesting data, much which has ministry implications, there was one research finding that completely changed Pamela’s understanding of ministry. The finding is known as “Power of 4”. It can be simply stated this way: The life of someone who engages Scripture four or more times a week looks radically different from the life of someone who does not. In fact, the lives of Christians who do not engage the Bible most days of the week are statistically the same as the lives of non-Christians. That’s a pretty interesting and bold statement from someone who lives in the academic world of research.
Dr. Ovwigho highlights these specifics about the Power of 4 effect. She writes: “Controlling for differences in gender, age, church attendance, prayer habits, small group participation, and most other factors you would think would matter, someone who engages the Bible four or more days a week is…
228% times more likely to share their faith with others
231% times more likely to be discipling someone else
60% times less likely to feel spiritually stagnant
59% times less likely to view pornography
30% times less likely to struggle with loneliness
31% times less likely to struggle with forgiving others
416% times more likely to give financially to their church
218% times more likely to give financially to causes other than their church.”
If there is validity to these findings, how does that change your view on what should be the clear focus of ministry in the congregation? How do these findings impact the types of congregational goals needed in order to encourage people to engage in the Power of 4? How much of our ministry efforts should be directed at helping people to engage God’s Word for themselves daily? The overwhelming evidence is that when we connect people with the Bible we are opening up the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to speak truth into their lives.
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 ESV
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” II Timothy 3:16-17 NIV
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105 ESV
— Wayne Van Regenmorter
LINKS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL
Reclaiming the Distinctive Gifts of a Small Church – Few places in the U.S. support the conditions for small churches to act like big churches. So they have an opportunity to focus on the activities that both foster the particular gifts of the congregation and make a distinctive witness to the community, writes the executive director of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity.
10 Questions to Ask Instead of “How’s Your Walk With God?” – Questions like these can often lead to quick and stereotypical answers. Some people also hear judgment in this question. With a simple language shift, we can move from judgment to curiosity. We invite our friend deeper into her own heart; we give grace for where she is rather than suggesting that she do more, be more, try harder.
How to Talk about Church Health . . . Without Taking a Head Count – “How’s your church doing?” It’s a question all church leaders are asked sooner or later, and if it catches them off-guard, it can be tempting to fall back on Sunday morning censuses and budgetary breakdowns, even when they know that data doesn’t tell the full story. Ministers share with Christianity Today how their churches are doing – without relying on the numbers.
The Power of Questions – Most influential leaders will tell you that reading, thinking, and making sound decisions are critical elements of leadership. What they might fail to mention is these exchanges are informed by how well we listen, who we listen to, and how we interact with ideas. Leadership hinges on the ability to ask good questions.