Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Freedom for Mission: A Word from Curt Solomon

I've been deeply struck this week as I have been preparing for communion.  We pray each week to God our Father, saying--- “In your infinite love you made us for yourself…”  I have been marinating in what it means to be made FOR God.  We talk a lot about being made in His image, and we are "created in Christ Jesus to do good works that He has prepared in advance for us to do.”  We also talk a lot about His deep love for us and that He rescued us from sin and death.  But, I don’t often spend much time processing through the idea that God made us for Himself.  He made you and me for His pleasure and His desire.  He not only desires us enough to redeem us from our sinfulness, but He loves so deeply that He made us to experience the complete love that Father, Son and Holy Spirit share in relationship together.  He made us FOR Himself.  He desires us, supports us, dreams for us, encourages us and gets excited us?  He created us so that He could have relationship with us and and delight in us.  It bends my mind around and around trying to grasp.

Isn’t this understanding of our relationship with God, and the intimacy that He desires from us, pointing us toward being freed up?  Freed up like we talked about in Deuteronomy 15 and the cancelling of debts every 7 years.  Free to grow and change and, yes, mess up, but also free to ask for help from the community around us.  Not only were the people encouraged to cancel debts in those years, but they were also encouraged to help when a brother or sister was in need.  It seems like this is what Freedom for Mission is hoping for us as a community: Freeing up the debt that our community holds so that we can actually do a far better and more thorough job of being ready to serve, care for and be a resource for our neighbors near and far.

God made us for Himself.  We are His and He desires deep intimacy with us.  The questions I ask myself are: Being made for God, how am I following His example of forgiveness for purposes of reconciliation? And, how are my family and I being called to live out God’s desires and dreams for us in the context of the Apostles community?

Your brother in Christ,


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Freedom for Mission: A Word from Alpesh Patel About Missions

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”     Acts 1:8
"…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith."    Heb. 12:1b-2a
What is “Missions?”  What is the church's role in Mission?  How is the LORD specifically calling Church of the Apostles to further enter into His work to "transform the City" for Jesus Christ?   These are the questions a group of eight individuals wrestled with for over a year (fall 2012-fall 2013) along with studying Scripture and seeking out the best practices in missions, both locally and nationally.  
The result led to the creation of a Missions Initiative Strategy that pointed to short-, medium-, and long-term goals associated with opportunities that can propel our congregation into deeper mission in very practical ways.  

Parts of this Strategy are already in motion and are having an impact (such as the adoption of ministry partners by our Community Groups) and other aspects (such as broader involvement in overseas mission work) will take time.

The Strategy also strengthens our current partnership with the nearly 20 ministry partners (both domestic and international) and five missionaries of Apostles, while opening the door for new partnerships to grow. 
Our partnerships are a vital way Christ is shared on college campuses, through sports & summer camps, in mentoring capacities and job skill programs, and many other ways.  
A revised Missions Policy now governs the timing and annual evaluation of ministry partner applications and requires the submittal of financial statements.  It also directs financial support based on a rigorous review of congregational involvement and ongoing partnership opportunities. 
Through these changes and the framework of the Mission Initiative Strategy our church is poised to take exciting, tangible steps to continue "onward and upward" (as CS Lewis is famously quoted) in mission minded engagement. 
Scripture reminds us to wait on God's timing (Isaiah 40:31) and how He prepares a season in our lives (Eccles. 3:1) that is in sync with His purposes.  It is clear to see how the launch of Freedom for Mission (or FFM) compliments the missions groundwork that’s been laid and beckons us to enter into a spiritual journey to consider our role (both individually and as a community) in advancing His Kingdom. 
 Let us enter this time with great celebration as to what the LORD has done already but also with great anticipation of what the LORD will do as more of our resources and ultimately our lives are freed up to serve Him.

One of the tenets of FFM is to “Bring the Blessing Forward."  This is a purposeful way to enable immediate participation in mission by taking 20% of every pledge received & directing it towards a local mission partner (“Community Hope”) and an international partner (“Walk with Rwanda.”) 
“Bring the Blessing Forward” is a unique way to see “first fruits” of mission investment and will act as a catalyst to create other opportunities to meet needs and make near-term impacts in our city.
 What a privilege to look back 3 years ago at our Mission Team’s charge to build a “hands-on, transformative congregational involvement" strategy, and to realize our church is on the cusp of that today through FFM.  I praise God for this; I praise Him for this exciting time in our church, and pray for His Spirit to move in our hearts in joyful obedience as we walk with Him by faith and trust in Him for the results.
---By Alpesh Patel 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Freedom for Mission: A Word from The Simpsons

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:1-2).  

Are you ready to run the race?  God calls us to throw off anything hindering us and run with Him the race of life.  When we cross the heavenly finish line, don’t we want to know we gave it our all - all of our faith, love and joy?  And that we spent our resources for His mission on Earth?

When we were asked to help co-chair Freedom for Mission (FFM), we were immediately excited about how God can use this campaign to throw off what hinders (mortgage debt) and show His love for His church and for those served through us.  We are fortunate to be part of a church on mission.  So many members of our church are serving as missionaries or engaged in leadership roles with ministries throughout our community and around the world.   Just imagine how God can bless these and other ministries if we are able to shift resources from repaying mortgage debt to investing more fully into His mission. 
The launch of FFM is also an opportunity to reflect upon God’s past provision for our church and to remind ourselves of His faithfulness.  After years of “wandering in the wilderness” without a permanent home, the congregation authentically partnered with God in 2007 as part of the Upon This Rock (UTR) capital campaign to purchase and remodel the building that is now Church of the Apostles. With a new pastor, a recent church plant, and a much smaller congregation, fundraising consultants said UTR was unlikely to succeed.  Yet this assessment did not leave room for God’s faithful provision and the congregation’s generous, sacrificial giving.  

In the Old Testament, the Israelites built stone memorials in grateful remembrance of God’s help and faithfulness.  On Sunday, the congregation built our own memorial, called an Ebenezer, as a reminder of all that God has provided for Church of the Apostles in the past and of His steadfast love for us as we pursue His mission into the future.  

With a membership that is now double the size it was in 2007, it is exciting to envision how God can use FFM to bless others by freeing our church to dive deeper into mission in our community and around the world.  Over the next four weeks, we pray that each of us will authentically partner with God to throw off what is hindering and - as a church on mission - run the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus. 

---Stephanie and Dana Simpson

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Man with the Mustache (or How I Met Ron Block) By Jonathan Noël

Nearly 20 years ago, I was living gig-to-gig as a touring musician in Nashville, Tenn. On weekends that I was “off the road,” one of my great joys was being a part of leading worship at my local church. About five or six times a year, my worship director would ask me to sub for him so he could have a break. It was a great honor that I would happily accept.

I was a member of a church in which many of the other members were also road-weary-artist types.  On one particular Sunday that I subbed, a kind-faced gentleman, wearing an impressive mustache, approached me after the service. He introduced himself as “Ron,” warmly encouraged me and told me that he appreciated my leadership and musicianship. He then said he’d enjoy leading with me if I needed a guitar player. I thanked him for his encouragement and his offer. Not knowing him, I would all but forget his offer to volunteer.

At the time, I was also working part-time at Circuit City (a store like Best Buy, now extinct), in the Music Department. One of my required nightly routines was to straighten up all of the CDs (compact discs, nearly extinct) that had been mixed-up during the day. As I was straightening the Country/Blue Grass section, a familiar face (or mustache), on the cover of an Alison Kraus & Union Station record (“So Long So Wrong” – I’m listening to it now as I write this; SO good), caught my eye. “Wait a sec,” I said to myself, “that’s the same dude that talked to me after church.” I knew it was him, even though the kind face I’d met at church was a bit more austere in the cover photo.

Though I wasn’t a huge fan of country music, I bought the CD and threw it into my boom box (a portable cassette/CD player, also nearly extinct) as soon as I got back to my tiny apartment. The music was amazing. The harmonies were so tight and the precision of the instrumentation was mind blowing. The final track, “There Is a Reason,” left me an unexpected, tearful mess. In the liner notes (record/writer credits that once came inside the cd case, also extinct), I discovered that "Ron" -- Ron Block -- wrote the song. I was floored.

That following Sunday I spotted Ron as he was heading out the door of the sanctuary after church. I caught up with him and nervously said something like, “Hey. Hey there. Hey, I’m leading worship again next month. I’d love – I mean, would you still like to play guitar? You don’t have to.” Ron smiled saying, “I’d love to, though I’d prefer to play electric if you don’t mind. I play a lot of acoustic.” “Anything you say – I mean, that sounds great.”

To make a long story short, Ron and I (and later on, his wife Sandra and my wife Amanda) became dear friends. Looking back, it was almost like he knew I needed him that day – when he encouraged me after church – and not for the obvious “musical” reasons. Ron became a trusted and honest voice in my walk with the Lord. His love for Jesus and his life in the grip of grace spurs me on to this day.

On Sunday evening, October 4, come to Apostles to hear a great man share some great music. Tickets are available to the public now. Get yours before they sell out!