Partnership in the Gospel

The first eight days of ministry in November have proved to be both very exciting and challenging so far. And like the Apostle Paul writing to the church in Philippi, let me say “I thank God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for you I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel…” (Philippians 1:3-5).

First of all, most often a person doesn’t realize the gift you had, until you lose it. Again I am so grateful for Nate and Missy’s leadership in worship for the past seven months, because now that they’re gone, I am seeing more clearly how complex it is to organize the Sunday worship service. Until we hire someone, Erin, a team of volunteers, and myself (although mostly Erin) have been picking songs, planning worship, organizing practices, and communicating with guest worship leaders.

In addition, Arlin called a meeting with the projection and sound volunteers to talk about how those teams can also function at a high level in the midst of the chaos. Although I wasn’t at the meeting, I discovered that there are a few of the long term members of those teams who are ready to take a break. Then when talking about recruiting new members to the team, it was noted that making the song presentation for each Sunday morning can take anywhere from three to four hours. And then there is the sacrifice of coming early for practice on Sunday mornings, not really being able to worship as they are focusing on their responsibilities, and not being able to worship with their families.

I am so thankful for all committed partners in the gospel that it takes just to gather for worship! (And please don’t forget about all of the praise team members, the SS teachers, those who make and serve coffee, the ushers, the nursery workers… J)

On Monday night the Consistory met for a five-hour meeting. Thanks for your commitment, guys!

Then this past Tuesday was an exciting day as Darrell and LaDonna’s youth group volunteers moved in to start cooking for their fundraiser (a few who took the day off from work). In addition, those who participated in the Bake-Off Challenge began dropping off their goodies. What a fun-filled day and evening; again, it wouldn’t have been possible without so many of you partnering in the gospel.

Then on Wednesday morning the volunteers moved in to begin working on the meal for Wednesday night. And thanks to some great partners, making and serving the meal usually gets pulled off without much fanfare, however on this day, the cook wasn’t feeling well so she went home. Thankfully Erin and Becky and some more great volunteers were able to finish preparing and serving a great meal!

Then as the church emptied out from Pioneer Club and youth groups, Henry, Virginia and Brian began setting up for the funeral for Zach Cowell. Between harvest and other work schedules, finding volunteers to bring cake and bars and to serve at funerals is a challenge. However, whether they were able to be there the whole time, or just coming to help during their lunch break, several other partners in the gospel did a great job on Thursday in helping the Cowell and Klarenbeek family feel loved!

And of course, the ministry that I mentioned above is only that which I’m aware of. I know without a doubt that many others were living on mission in other ways. Although maybe feeling somewhat emotionally drained as I write this, again my heart feels full of joy when I think of how you have all been created in Christ Jesus to do the good works which he has prepared in advance for you to do.

Oh and one final request, if you have any interest in checking out our sound or projection ministry, please contact Arlin.

Laboring for the Harvest,

Mike Altena

 


Exercise Your Right to Vote

In his article “Why This is The Most Important Election of Our Lifetime” in the November 2018 issue of Decision magazine, Franklin Graham shares these thoughts. “There is a battle raging between good and evil, between right and wrong, between light and darkness. It’s not new, but it certainly has intensified in a very public way. The battle is raging in the halls of Congress, on the Senate floor, in the Supreme Court, and on the media airwaves. It’s raging in our city councils and school boards across America.

The Bible says, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil: who put darkness for light and light for darkness: who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:29).

The further our nation moves away from God, the quicker our decent into greater moral depravity and chaos. I fear for what is in store for our children and grandchildren.”

He then goes on to encourage his readers to go out and vote on Tuesday, November 6 –voting for the candidate who is most closely aligned with Biblical values.

After the Presidential election in 2016 I began to question what my responsibility was in regards to politics and voting—especially in light of the fact that I questioned the integrity of both major candidates and that I am foremost loyal to the King and his Kingdom. I wondered, if Jesus lived in our day and had the opportunity, would he have voted? And who would he have voted for? Maybe you have some of the same questions or skepticisms.

So what does the Bible say? In Romans 13:1 it basically says that God is ultimately the one who establishes government. And in our form of government, as a citizen of America we have the privilege and responsibility of electing those who govern over us.

In Jesus’ or Paul’s day they would’ve had no such opportunity to vote for who would govern them, so at minimum, Paul encourages Timothy, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior … (I Timothy 2:1-3).

From this text we can clearly see that it’s God’s heart that we would enjoy peaceable and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. Our ability to choose leaders gives us the ability to pick leaders that would seek to work towards that end.

In Philippians 1:27, Paul encourages the church with these instructions, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” The word for “conduct yourselves” in the Greek is politeumai; it’s where we get our word “politics.” So for you and I to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel would mean that we have a responsibility of being active in administering civil affairs.

As ambassadors for Christ, you and I have been called to advance the reign and rule of Christ in our circles of influence and one of the most entry level ways of doing that is to vote for Godly leaders whose values align with the kingdom of God.

I agree with Franklin Graham; I believe this election is critically important to the future of the family and church in America. So please, renounce any passive thoughts that your vote doesn’t matter, and vote! By doing so you are voting to bringing the kingdom of God to our families, our churches and our schools!

(In order to help you make a more informed vote, I put a little card in each mailbox on how to access your own personal voter’s guide online).

Seeking to advance the Kingdom,

Mike Altena

 


Celebrating Halloween

A few days ago I was scanning some articles on my news feed when my eye caught this title, “Former Satanist Warns Christians about Celebrating Halloween”. The article caused me to wonder, should Christians celebrate Halloween? Opinions differ in Christian circles. According to a CBN News Facebook poll, 87% of believers feel that Christians should not celebrate, while 13% believe it’s okay.

Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve, originated in an ancient Celtic festival Samhain, which means “end of summer.”  According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, during Samhain the souls of the dead are supposed to revisit their homes and many people believed that ghosts, witches, goblins, black cats, fairies and demons roamed the earth. So in order to protect their families and livestock during the coming dark winter months, the Celts invoked the help of their gods with animal sacrifices.

However the holiday took a turn when Christians arrived on the scene and began celebrating All Soul’s Day. All Soul’s day was a time when Christians would commemorate and pray for the souls of believers who had died. In the Western Christian Practice, the celebration began at a prayer service on the evening of October 31 and ended on November 2.

During this time, the poor would visit the houses of wealthier families to receive little pastries called “soul cakes” in exchange for a promise to pray for the families’ dead relatives. Eventually, the festivities evolved into people dressing up and singing songs in exchange for treats.

Former Satanist John Ramirez recently joined Charlene Aaron on CBN News Prayer Link to talk about Christians and Halloween. Ramirez was a general to the kingdom of darkness in witchcraft. Ramirez said, “I would sit with the Devil and talk to him like I am taking to you today. It was that kind of communication. It was that kind of a relationship.”

Ramirez warns Halloween isn’t just about costumes and candy—there’s a much darker reality. “Sometimes people say, ‘I celebrated Halloween 10 years ago, I did this 15 years ago, I did this 20 years ago, ‘but the door is still open. You just cursed your family for three to four generations,” Ramirez told CBN News.

“You have to be aware it’s a curse. You have to go back to the place where you started, that year you started that Halloween thing, the celebration when you started having an encounter with the dark side. You have to go back to that same spot and renounce it in the name of Jesus Christ and ask God to forgive you so that God can have mercy and close that door so your whole family can move forward,” he continued.

Ramirez, now a pastor knows the dark reality of Halloween. He once sacrificed animals as part of satanic rituals and his friends even knew him as “Lucifer’s son.” Now as a born again believer, he strongly warns Christians against celebrating Halloween and participating in harvest festivals. “The only harvest we should celebrate is the harvest of souls,” he adds. Ramirez says that in his opinion the other events Christians hold to instead of Halloween, such as “Trunk or Treat” nights are really no different.

“Do you know of any Satanists who say, ‘Hey we’re going to come into Good Friday and we’re going to hang out with Christians and we’re just going to call it a different name?”

If you would like to read the full articles go to:

http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2017/october/former-satanist-warns-christians-about-celebrating-halloween

http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2017/october/paganism-and-witchcraft-the-dark-reality-of-halloween-nbsp

I’m guessing that when most parents take their kids trick or treating, they aren’t intentionally “celebrating” Halloween. However, I wonder if we have any idea what the Enemy’s perception is when a Christian participates in the same activity as those who belong to the kingdom of darkness. So, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I Peter 5:8

Semper Reformanda, Mike Altena

 


Next To Him

The staff has been engaging a study from the book of Nehemiah written by Chip Ingram entitled Holy Ambition. This past week we looked at what I consider one of the most powerful images in the Bible of God’s people who committed themselves to a “Holy Ambition” that God laid on their hearts to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem. In chapter 3, Nehemiah tells the story of how the people, with every kind of gift and skill, came from every direction to complete the good work God prepared in advance for them to do.

I especially love verses 17-32. Just notice all the “next to hims” and “next to thems.” 17 Next to him, the repairs were made by the Levites under Rehum son of Bani. Beside him, Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, carried out repairs for his district. 18 Next to him, the repairs were made by their fellow Levites under Binnui[f] son of Henadad, ruler of the other half-district of Keilah. 19 Next to him, Ezer son of Jeshua, ruler of Mizpah, repaired another section, from a point facing the ascent to the armory as far as the angle of the wall. 20 Next to him, Baruch son of Zabbai zealously repaired another section, from the angle to the entrance of the house of Eliashib the high priest. 21 Next to him, Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, repaired another section, from the entrance of Eliashib’s house to the end of it.

22 The repairs next to him were made by the priests from the surrounding region. 23 Beyond them, Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs in front of their house; and next to them, Azariah son of Maaseiah, the son of Ananiah, made repairs beside his house. 24 Next to him, Binnui son of Henadad repaired another section, from Azariah’s house to the angle and the corner, 25 and Palal son of Uzai worked opposite the angle and the tower projecting from the upper palace near the court of the guard. Next to him, Pedaiah son of Parosh 26 and the temple servants living on the hill of Ophel made repairs up to a point opposite the Water Gate toward the east and the projecting tower. 27 Next to them, the men of Tekoa repaired another section, from the great projecting tower to the wall of Ophel.

28 Above the Horse Gate, the priests made repairs, each in front of his own house. 29 Next to them, Zadok son of Immer made repairs opposite his house. Next to him, Shemaiah son of Shekaniah, the guard at the East Gate, made repairs. 30 Next to him, Hananiah son of Shelemiah, and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph, repaired another section. Next to them, Meshullam son of Berekiah made repairs opposite his living quarters. 31 Next to him, Malkijah, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs as far as the house of the temple servants and the merchants, opposite the Inspection Gate, and as far as the room above the corner; 32 and between the room above the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and merchants made repairs.

As I reflect on our study, I am grateful that I get to work next to the staff, next to the Ridder Team and next to the Consistory. I thank God I get to work next to the Prayer Team, the Worship Team, the Discipleship Team and the Mission Support Team. And I thank God as I watch so many of you working side by side, teaching, caring, serving, and encouraging one another in order to advance the kingdom here in Luverne and around the region.

We might not finish our work in 53 days, but I thank God for how he is working in and through ARC!!!!

Laboring for the harvest, Mike Altena

 


Time For…

Reflecting on a variety of challenges that are part of my daily experience, I’ve spent some time this week meditating on Ecclesiastes 3. Like, does it really matter what I do, or how I live? Is “having a good time” all that matters? Is what I do mostly “busywork”? I know of people who take comfort from the first part of chapter 3, but what do we do with the end? I wonder how this chapter might have looked different if Solomon had lived after Jesus lived.

From Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Ecclesiastes 3: There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:

2-8 A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.

9-13 But in the end, does it really make a difference what anyone does? I’ve had a good look at what God has given us to do—busywork, mostly. True, God made everything beautiful in itself and in its time—but he’s left us in the dark, so we can never know what God is up to, whether he’s coming or going. I’ve decided that there’s nothing better to do than go ahead and have a good time and get the most we can out of life. That’s it—eat, drink, and make the most of your job. It’s God’s gift.

14 I’ve also concluded that whatever God does, that’s the way it’s going to be, always. No addition, no subtraction. God’s done it and that’s it. That’s so we’ll quit asking questions and simply worship in holy fear.

15 Whatever was, is. Whatever will be, is. That’s how it always is with God.

16-18 I took another good look at what’s going on: The very place of judgment—corrupt! The place of righteousness—corrupt! I said to myself, “God will judge righteous and wicked.” There’s a right time for everything, every deed—and there’s no getting around it. I said to myself regarding the human race, “God’s testing the lot of us, showing us up as nothing but animals.”

19-22 Humans and animals come to the same end—humans die, animals die. We all breathe the same air. So there’s really no advantage in being human. None. Everything’s smoke. We all end up in the same place—we all came from dust, we all end up as dust. Nobody knows for sure that the human spirit rises to heaven or that the animal spirit sinks into the earth. So I made up my mind that there’s nothing better for us men and women than to have a good time in whatever we do—that’s our lot. Who knows if there’s anything else to life?

Thanking God for progressive revelation!!

Mike Altena

 


Thanks, Moms!

I realize the day for celebrating our mothers is several months away, but after spending a few days camping with three of our four granddaughters, I want to give some love to our moms.

First of all, when it comes to vacation, I’m guessing most moms likely plan the vacation and then also pack everything for the vacation, and thus the vacation probably never really ends up being a vacation. I’m sad to report to you that this is also true for our family.

Second it’s on vacation that I’m guessing most dads get a real glimpse into what a mom does every day. From prepping meals, to changing diapers, and trying to keep the little ones from killing each other and in addition to a full or part time job and a never ending list of other tasks, a mother’s work never               seems finished.

Vicki and I were never outnumbered when we were raising our two sons so we got a little taste of what it’s like to have three—we didn’t dare try all four. Well, in addition to being out numbered, add the extra drama that comes with three little girls trying to play a good game of dolls, and it becomes a physically and  emotionally disturbing experience. When Jesus gave the reasons for what hinders a person from growing in Christ likeness, he could’ve added “having too many kids in too short of a span.” J  You know I’m just kidding, however I’m guessing the writer of Proverbs 31:10-31 put his reflections on paper after returning from a vacation or camping trip.

For the sake of space I will include only selected verses.  (And moms, I know there are many of you who don’t like this scripture because of the pressure they feel to meet these expectations. And yet from my perspective, this description of a mother and wife is not about who you should become, but rather it’s a reflection of who God hard wired you to be).

And with that I honor you with these words…25She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come [like when she can go to the bathroom alone]. 26She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. 27She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” 30Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. 31Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

May it not be so with you and me that we should ever take our mothers for granted. And here’s to you, Vicki and Traci and all the other moms who read this!

Grace to you and peace!

Mike Altena

 


General Synod Update

Significant news from General Synod 2018:  On Saturday, June 9, General Synod approved Eddy Alemán as general secretary of the RCA by voice vote. The role of general secretary includes casting vision for the denomination and overseeing implementation of its mission.

General Synod delegates passed a recommendation to form a 2020 Vision Group proposed Friday morning, June 8, by Don Poest, interim general secretary.

Since then, members of the 2020 Vision Group have been selected in response to the General Synod 2018 recommendation that a vision group be formed to research and identify strategies and consequences for three possible scenarios for the future of the RCA:

  1. staying together
  2. radical reconstituting and reorganization
  3. a grace-filled separation.

Per the recommendation, one specific option the group will consider is for the RCA to be a single denomination with three or more affinity assemblies within it.

The recommendation originated as a proposal by then-interim general secretary Don Poest, who suggested the vision group in response to his assessment of deep division in the denomination.

Members of the group were named by Poest and general secretary Eddy Alemán, in consultation with the General Synod Council (GSC), and were chosen to reflect the wide diversity of the RCA, including all regional synods and racial/ethnic councils.

On Monday, June 11, General Synod directed the general secretary to write a letter to the United States president strongly supporting immigration reform and DACA and urged congregations to advocate for legislation that supports immigration reform and DACA at the local level.

The Commission on Christian Action originally brought the recommendation to synod, but retracted it instead of presenting it for a vote. Then, during their report, a motion from the floor brought the recommendation back before delegates. Some delegates expressed discomfort with the general secretary writing a letter to the president about a political issue.

“I personally do not want this body writing a letter for me,” elder delegate Glenn Emmert said. “There’s so much involved in this. … I don’t feel comfortable having our general secretary write this.”

Others, like GSC member and corresponding delegate Anna Jackson, voiced support for the recommendation.

“Too long, I believe the church has been silent to many of the injustices that are happening in our country,” said Jackson. “We need to find our voice. It is within our authority. The report does have something to say when it comes to justice issues. I think it’s high time that we do make a statement.”

General Synod voted on Monday, June 11, to commend an instructional, question-and-answer document on marriage and sexuality to all RCA churches and classes. Known as the Great Lakes Catechism on Marriage and Sexuality, the document consists of 19 questions and answers and is written in a conversational format similar to the Heidelberg Catechism (see document on the RCA website).

Responding to overtures from two classes and a regional synod about commending or adopting the document, the Advisory Committee on Overtures and New Business made a recommendation to “commend the Great Lakes Catechism on Marriage and Sexuality for reflection, study, and response by the Commission on Theology and RCA churches and classes as a means of deepening our understanding of the biblical teaching on human sexuality and finding a pathway forward toward unity in mission and ministry.”

Several amendments were debated that would have restricted distribution until the Commission on Theology could study and respond to the document, but in the end none were approved and synod voted 134-90 to approve the original recommendation.

For more insights into this year’s General Synod, check out www.rca.org.

May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,

Mike Altena

 


Our Responsibility

Below is a recent call to action from the RCA’s General Secretary, Eddy Aleman. What is our responsibility?

Caring for the most vulnerable is not optional; it is a calling from Christ. We believe this calling means that we have a responsibility to speak up for and take action to help children who have been separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. With this statement, the Reformed Church in America condemns the separation of children from their parents and calls for a more biblical, humane approach.

RCA Urges Support of Immigrant Families

In April 2018, the Trump Administration rolled out a zero-tolerance policy of arresting and criminally prosecuting all adults apprehended by border control for illegal entry. Under this policy, when adults are arrested, they get separated from their children. Even those who are seeking asylum—a legally protected right—get prosecuted and separated from their children.

President Trump signed an executive order to end the policy on Wednesday afternoon, June 20. Although this is encouraging news, many challenges and questions still remain. The administration says it will continue its zero-tolerance policy of prosecuting all adults stopped by border patrol, and many questions still remain about how families will be able to stay together and in what conditions.

Given the seriousness of this issue and the questions that remain, we in the Reformed Church in America believe our Christian witness still compels an informed and biblical response to the situation. So it is in this hour that we make a bold, biblical, conscientious statement that affirms our hopes for this country and for those that are seeking the privileges and freedoms the U.S. has to offer.

We recognize the intent of immigration policies that seek to protect U.S. borders and U.S. citizens. However, we condemn the policy of forced family separation and urge the Trump Administration to find more ethical, humane approaches that preserve the family unit as people seek asylum or citizenship status.

The trauma that is inflicted on children when families are forcibly separated has devastating immediate and long-term consequences. Studies show that children who are separated from their parents are more likely to exhibit delinquent behavior, an inability to empathize with others, long-term psychological conditions such as PTSD, and difficulties with memory and impulse control.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we’re compelled to practice a gospel that is “pure and undefiled”—to “care for orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27). Caring for the most vulnerable is not optional; it is a calling from Christ. As part of this calling, when defenseless children are torn from their parents, we believe we have a responsibility to respond.

So we pray. We pray for the reunification of families. We pray for the healing of children who have been traumatized and for them to have strength and comfort while they are away from their parents. We pray for people to find homes free from conflict, extreme poverty, and war.

We speak up. We call for more humane, biblical approaches to enforcing U.S. laws at the border and for the reunification of families that have been separated.

We take action. We seek to participate in meaningful work that minimizes and helps heal the traumatic impact on children and families who are separated. And we urge all RCA congregations to join us in these efforts.

Although the challenges are great, we have hope that God will lead us toward a more biblical, humane, and loving way of treating the strangers in our midst.

In Christ, Eddy Alemán, General Secretary

 


Wet Wood

One of the ways Vicki and I kindle our love relationship is by engaging in some deep heart to heart conversation around a bonfire on the back patio. We reflect on the joy of being united as one, or about God’s vision for our lives and for our family, about the transformation we are experiencing, but mostly about the blessing of having so many deep friendships as we silently scroll through Facebook.

I believe most people enjoy gathering around a good crackling pit fire on a cool summer’s night. Pit fires seem to have a natural way of bringing about good conversations filled with reflections of the events of the past week, solving the world’s problems, or from fond childhood memories.

Memories like the time when Mitchell had a bunch of his high school friends over for a bonfire. It was getting late so Vicki and I decided to go to bed which apparently presented the perfect opportunity for the boys to throw an unopened can of pork and beans into the fire. Well wouldn’t you know it, in the same way pork and beans can create internal combustion in a human being, so it is when thrown in an open fire. We hadn’t been in bed long when we heard what sounded like a gunshot followed by an eruption of laughter, Yep, the can of beans exploded and we had pork and beans all over our yard, even on our deck that was 40 feet away. (Hey kids, you’ll have to try it sometime!)

As I was thinking about some of our more memorable bonfires, I also thought about the one we had last summer. Vicki and I were getting low on fire wood, so I stopped at a gas station in Rock Rapids and I picked up a couple bundles of tightly wrapped, precut logs that had been sliced into one inch by ten inch pieces.

Later that evening I neatly stacked our remaining supply of fire wood on the fire pit: I filled the nooks and crannies with newspapers and started striking a couple of rocks together. Soon Vicki and I were enjoying the warmth and light of a roaring bonfire.  Not long after, as all fires do, the flames began to die, so, eager to try out the new wood I purchased, I strategically added a few of the pieces. However, much to my surprise, rather than fueling the fire again, the remaining flames turned to red hot embers and the wood I added began to send plumes of white smoke into the sky.

Immediately I was overcome by feelings of disenchantment, but thank goodness the Holy Spirit reminded me of my Calvinist Cadets training—get the bottle of lighter fluid. I quickly grabbed the bottle and I gave it a good squeeze, as the stream of accelerant hit the glowing embers, the flames immediately leapt high into the air filling the dark cold night with a beautiful warm glow. But then, and again much to my disillusionment, the fire almost extinguished itself before I could slide the marshmallows on my roasting stick—my new bundle of wood was wet wood.

As I reflected on that memorable experience, I thought about the story in Acts 2 and how the Holy Spirit ignited that early church on fire to be a light in this dark world. And then I thought about the Apostle Paul’s warning in I Thessalonians 5:19 “Don’t put out the Spirit’s fire” (GW). Which led me to ponder; when it comes to the Kingdom fire blazing at ARC, in what ways am I good dry wood that fuels the fire, and in what ways am I like wet wood that puts out the Spirit’s fire?

When I reflect on the fire at ARC, in our Classis, or in our denomination, I’m wondering about the impact of wet wood.

I am the light of the world,

Mike Altena

 


I Wonder…

I’d like to take this opportunity to give an update on the activity of the Ridder Church Renewal (RCR) Team over the past eight months. For those who aren’t familiar with the RCR team, we have been commissioned by the Consistory to engage in a process designed by Western Seminary to help our congregation move towards God’s preferred future of faithful and missional living demonstrated personally and corporately.

In the initial module of our Ridder process, our team was introduced to two core values and three skill sets that are significant in helping us discover and live into God’s preferred and emerging future. The two  core values are authenticity and integrity and the three skill sets are developing a metal model of discipleship comprised of radical obedience, reflective living, and communities of grace and truth, learning how family systems impacts our ministry, and generating and sustaining creative tension.

Part of the homework of engaging the skill set of generating and creating creative tension was to identify our current reality specifically in regards to our understanding of engaging Christ’s kingdom mission. And if you remember, in August of 2017, we presented our narrative of what we believe is our current reality of missional engagement. Included in that document was information about the process, affirmations of how we are living on mission, as well as several “technical” and “adaptive” challenges.

Since last September the RCR team has been focusing on two areas. First, each team member has been intentional about living on mission, and in particular, seeking to engage those who have wandered far from God. At each of our meetings we reflect on how we are growing in faithful and fruitful missional living as well as the obstacles.

Secondly, we have been intentionally seeking the heart of God in regards to how he may be calling ARC to bring the kingdom of God to a specific issue in the community. Although not reported in the current reality document, after interviewing representatives from several subsystems, we discovered that some people are unable to find rides to doctor’s appointments. We discovered an increase of mental illness and a lack of respect among community members. We discovered a need for mentoring in the school system as well as lack of affordable housing. When meeting with a local banker we discover the growing level of personal debt and a visit with the Rock County Daycare Supervisor revealed a need for more daycare.

In our research we discovered many possible areas where ARC could invest intentional time and resources to bless our community, and yet we didn’t want to just rush into anything without seeking the heart of God, and so we worked through Ruth Haley Barton’s book, Pursuing God’s Will Together.

During this season of discernment, the daycare issue has come up a number of times and in a variety of unique ways indicating the Spirit might be speaking to us, and so on May 1 we met with Holly Sammons and Emily Crabtree to learn more about this issue. (See May 16 issue of the Star Herald about daycare).

We wonder…could God be calling ARC to partner with the city of Luverne and/or with other entities to address this need? Or could God’s preferred future for ARC include starting our own ministry of daycare and preschool? Maybe ARC’s niche’ in the daycare issue is providing affordable daycare and preschool for single parent families in our community. (Some single parents can’t work because of the daycare costs). And what do you think? When reading about this possible mission, is there anything that begins to stir in your heart? If so, I would invite you to join our next RCR meeting on Tuesday night, June 5 at 7:00 in the Commons.

I have heard of several things ARC has become known for, some good, some not so good. My prayer is that, whether personally or corporately, we truly are growing for God’s glory as we bless our community in the name of Jesus! Mike Altena