The Fall Issue of the RCA Today is out and includes stories from our region. Be sure to check out the great story on Corey Buchanan from First Reformed Church in South Holland, IL and a story on growing community from Emmanuel Reformed Church on Clinton, WI.
Women Corresponding Delegates to 2017 General Synod are needed in our region. Each year our region sends 2 women to be corresponding delegates to the RCA’s General Synod. This year, General Synod is taking place on the campus of Hope College in Holland, MI from June 8-13, 2017. These delegates are in addition to those sent by the classes. A corresponding delegate functions in all aspects of the General Synod with the exception of voting. Our desire is for the voice of women from this region to be better represented at General Synod and so the information from the synod and the spirit that is caught at the synod can be brought back to the region within the context of women in our churches. If you are a woman, or know of a woman, who fits within this purpose you are invited to submit that name by contacting Chad Schuitema.
A Youth Corresponding Delegate to General Synod is also needed for this year’s RCA General Synod taking place in Holland, MI at Hope College from June 8-13, 2017. This non-voting delegate is one who is somewhere around traditional college age. In addition to participating in the regular business of the General Synod, the youth corresponding delegates meet and do things together. It is anticipated that the youth delegates have given some thought about the possibility that God may be calling him or her into ministry, but that does not necessarily mean that a decision has been made. It is an intention of the participation in General Synod as a youth delegate to help that person discern hearing the Holy Spirit’s voice. Do you know of someone who might be a candidate for this youth delegate? Please contact Chad.
The RSMA annually gives out Urban Ministry Grants. In 2017 we will be supporting ministries such as: a Director of Multi-Cultural Worship, a Violence Prevention ministry in the inner-city, and other ministries that seek to reach out to people who are typically thought of as “the least of these.” These ministries seek to missionally impact urban areas within our region. Your church can help support these ministries by giving to our Urban Ministry Fund. This “asking” is $4 per church member and $2 per Sunday School participant. Any amount given is used completely to fund these ministries. For more information, contact Chad.
DATE CHANGE: Creating Congregational Cultures of Generosity (CCCG) is an opportunity for any RSMA church to be in an RCA learning community led by Ken Eriks and the Lake Institute focused on growing a culture of generosity in congregations. In three one-day seminars, pastors and ministry leaders learn to unearth and energize congregational generosity by exploring the significant and necessary steps to creating lasting cultural change. Interactive segments of CCCG explore theology, the role of adaptive leadership, fiscal transparency, and the importance of donor care. Participants leave with action steps for both laity and clergy to explore and experience generosity. The dates for this learning community are November Nov. 19, 2016, January 14, 2017, and March 4, 2017 and it will be held at Christ Community Church in Lemont, IL. For more information, click HERE. If your church is interested in joining this learning community, please contact Chad Schuitema.
A new website and a new tool to help your church find help for its mission and ministries is available from the RCA’s Transformed and Transforming staff. The updated Transformed and Transforming website can be found by clicking HERE. To connect with RCA leaders and resources to help your church, simply go to this quiz.
The Regional Synod of Mid-America Assembly will be meeting November 10 to discuss and vote on the formation of the New Thing Classis. The Assembly heard the request at its May meeting and Illiana-Florida Classis and Chicago Classis were instructed to study the formation of this classis in various ways and report back to the Assembly. We ask for your prayers for this important meeting.
News from Camp Manitoqua Storm the base, capture the flag, and win the game! Camp Manitoqua and Retreat Center invites you out to one of the most epic days of paintball you will ever experience on October 22 from 10am – 4pm! Come play a full day of paintball on our wooded course. Space is limited; registration processed on first come first serve basis. Cost is $36 (includes gun and mask rental, 1000 paintballs, and a box lunch). Register online at www.manitoqua.org/events by RSVP by October 19. Ages: 7th grade and older. Questions: call the office at 815.469.2319.
Have a BLAST this winter break – Registration begins October 3rd for our WinterBlast day camp program, a break from school, not from fun, at Camp Manitoqua and Retreat Center. Held during winter break for grades 1-6; featuring classic camp activities, winter snow games, hot lunches, and more. Additional information (including downloadable brochure) available at www.manitoqua.org/winterblast, or call our office at 815-469-2319.
Enjoy a taste of fall at the Red Oak Luncheon, a pleasant occasion for seniors, at Camp Manitoqua & Retreat Center on Wednesday, December 7th. Coffee & Rolls will be served at 10:30am. Our program will begin at 11:00am with lunch to follow at 12:00pm. Tours of the grounds will be available after lunch. Cost for the event is $10.00. Please make reservations at 815-469-2319 by November 23.
Camp Manitoqua & Retreat Center’s fall retreat season has begun. At this time, we are offering groups a 15% discount on any retreat booked for December 2016 or January 2017. Please contact Ken at 815.469.2319, or at firstname.lastname@example.org for availability.
STORIES OF CELEBRATION
We share stories of celebration to glorify God. This month’s story comes from The Bridge and Rev. Stephanie Doeschot. We hope these stories inspire and encourage others in our region. If you’d like to share what God is doing in your church, please email Chad.
The Bridge is a ministry comprised of a Coffee House, Faith Community and Fair Trade Market. It was started as a church plant designed to develop relationships with people in the public arena. Christ’s Church (St. Peters, MO) and its area partner churches invested time, money and personnel in learning to develop a relational ministry outside of our churches’ walls since the gospel travels over relational bridges.
Christ’s Church has developed a Missional community which is regularly involved in mission by serving as baristas, as ambassadors for justice by serving in our fair trade store, or by helping to lead worship or youth activities for the developing faith community.
These venues outside of the church building provide people natural ways for them to become fully engaged disciples of Jesus Christ. By being intentionally inviting others into experiencing community with us and being able to articulate our mission in inclusive ways, they are learning to take the knowledge they have as believers and translate that into words and action that have impact.
The printed prayer that faces each volunteer at the Fair Trade Market at the start of each shift illustrates the mentality we are cultivating. It goes like this: “Dear Lord, please take our time and our service to you this day and use it to communicate your love for people all around the world. Help us to exhibit your love and grace to all who come through our doors as we jointly seek to learn from what you are doing in the lives of artisans and farmers in developing countries and to be a blessing to them and to all who cross our paths. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”
People need avenues for natural ways to engage others in everyday life situations, just as the early disciples did as recorded in the book of Acts. We regularly get to see photos of people’s new grandchildren, hear what hilarious thing happened in the local high school, see the eyes of parents light up as their children participate in story time, even get asked to perform weddings and celebrate baptisms, and attend birthday parties of the people to whom we serve lattes and share life at our coffee house, and get to know through our store interactions.
Missional living = letting Christ have our hands, our feet and our time to love others through us. It’s our way of “being the very presence of Christ to a lost and broken world so loved by God.”
THOUGHTS FROM WAYNE
The Art of Neighboring…
Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to listen to Dave Runyon speak, co-author of the book “The Art of Neighboring”. I attended a taste and see learning community event at Remedy Church, a new church plant parented by Bethany Reformed Church in Sheboygan, WI. Dave Runyon began by saying that there was a time when people knew their neighbors. People took the time to talk to their neighbors, have cook-outs with them, and even go to church with them. But in our day of increased mobility and isolation, it’s difficult to find the time to make connections with our neighbors even though they may live 50 feet away from our front door. We have hundreds of friends on Facebook, but often we don’t even know the full name of the person who lives right next door. Those statements resonated with me as I thought about the people in my neighborhood.
Runyon asked us to fill out our own neighborhood map as completely as we could. He said, imagine that the middle box in the chart is your house and the boxes that surround it are the eight houses closest to your own. Now, here’s what I want you to do.
First, fill in the names of the people you know who live in the house represented by each of the boxes. If you can only think of the first names, that’s okay.
Second, write down some facts that you have learned from your conversations with the neighbor in that house. The things you remember in speaking to them like where they work or where they grew up.
Third, write down anything of personal significance you know about your neighbor. This could include things like their career plans, their fears, their dreams or their religious beliefs.
Then we were asked to share with the group around our table, how did you do as you filled out this exercise? Our responses revealed the degree of which we simply knew or did not know our neighbors.
Dave Runyon went on to share the Parable of the Good Samaritan. When Jesus told us love our neighbors, what if He meant to love our actual neighbors – the people who live next door to us? In the parable, a lawyer stood up and asked Jesus a question: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded by saying, “What is written in the Law?” The man answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” Then the lawyer desiring to justify himself said to Jesus: “And who is my neighbor?” Runyon explained that it is easy for pastors and laity to be busy doing ministry, but not engaging with our literal neighbors. In fact, we often justify ourselves like the lawyer where we make our “neighbor” a safe metaphor in carrying out the Lord’s command when we serve at soup kitchens and do acts of kindness to complete strangers. Often times we are so busy neighboring other people with needs in our congregations that we don’t have the time or energy to even notice the people immediately around us, let alone loving and serving them. When everyone is our neighbor, no one is our neighbor. Ouch!
What challenged me is to begin being intentional about what it means to love and serve my neighbor. Most of the time I find myself loving and serving the people who are most like me – those who have the same heritage and beliefs that I have. In telling the parable, Jesus is a genius in stretching my concept of “neighbor” to include the people next door that I don’t even like to associate with or get to know more deeply. I tend to be more focused on the stranger on the side of the road and forget about the person in the house next door. I am reflecting on how I can intentionally be a good neighbor. If I believe that God is already working in my neighborhood and I do, then I need to find ways to intentionally connect and build relationships with my neighbors. Not to love my neighbor with simply an ulterior motive of sharing the Gospel with them and to see them turn to the Lord. Runyon clarifies: “Sharing the story of Jesus and His impact on our lives is the right motive, but it cannot be an ulterior motive in developing relationships. We don’t love our neighbors to convert them; we love our neighbors because we are converted.” Christians have long been taught that we should do good things solely to have a spiritual conversation that can move people toward conversion; but Jesus never called us to use a bait-and-switch approach where we are friends only so we can share the Gospel. “We are called to love our neighbors unconditionally, without expecting anything in return.” God will do the work of conversion; we are called to do the work of neighboring. Certainly however, if we truly love Jesus and we seek to love our neighbors, we will end up talking about Jesus.
So what would it be like for you to take one small step to have a conversation with a neighbor? What would have to change in the congregation where you serve to become known as the best neighbor in the community? What if as Christians we would intentionally begin neighboring whereby we could touch every household in our community or city? The Art of Neighboring isn’t an evangelism strategy. But it is a new way of looking at the people who live in our neighborhoods. What is clear is that when Christians begin to love and serve people like Jesus, then people around them begin to live and love like Jesus. Just a word of caution: when we begin to love our neighbors it will get messy. We will connect with people who are needy and have deep needs. Peoples’ needs may overwhelm our capacity. We will need to set boundaries and have a clear sense of the difference between being responsible for others and responsible to others.
— Wayne Van Regenmorter
LINKS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL
Can Your Church Be Missional and Attractional? – A Missional Church does not marginalize the church gathering, however, it does reorient the purpose of the gathering. We gather in order to be sent back out into the world. It is never solely for our benefit. So if we the church ask people to “come to us” it is for the purpose ultimately, of sending people out again into the world to live for the sake of others as Jesus did.
Preaching Grace Rather Than To-Do Lists – When we share five ways to do [BLANK], what are we communicating about the gospel? Often the temptation is to place ourselves in the position of “congregational parent” rather than pastor. By doing this we are saying that we are the adults, we have our acts together, we have outgrown all the immature behaviors we see in our church, and we have the right and the authority to tell them how to live.
Church Can Be Weird – Brandon Hatmaker writes that he often visits other churches and he walks away with the realization that church can be weird. There is a certain amount of insider language and structure that can be very strange to an outsider. Maybe that’s why Jesus seemed to start at a different place. He started by creating a common ground.
How to Foster A Healthier Year in Ministry – Many Christian leaders find that the pressures of ministry are chipping away at their own wellness, their relationship with God and their ability to live out their callings faithfully. This article looks at two strategies for ministry health.
Limitations – Gifted leaders often feel as though anything is possible. Sooner or later they learn the truth. It’s not. And the earlier they develop the capacity to notice and respect our limitations, the more vibrant their ministries and joyful their lives will be.
Tips for Talking to the Homeless – Christ in the City, a Denver-based urban ministry, has a tip sheet for how to engage homeless persons in the street, including learning the person’s name and using it, and providing soft food rather than granola bars or apples because often the homeless have teeth problems.
Don’t Point Fingers – This article from Fierce Leadership is about how important it is to describe reality without laying blame.