Were you able to see the Christmas Star this past Monday night? Every 20 years Saturn and Jupiter come close enough that if it occurs at night they create a brighter “star.” However, scientists tell us that this year’s conjunction, which happened in the early evening of the winter solstice, appeared closer than it has since just before dawn on March 4, 1226.
At the time of creation, God put the stars and planets in place and set them in motion (Genesis 1:14-18). Astronomers have been observing and charting them since that time. Stop and think about it, science is defined as “the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena.” The next time someone says to you science and religion don’t mix, remind them that science exists only because God created the universe and gave the scientists something to study. In fact, the very concept of a reproducible scientific experiment demands that God’s creation will be the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, just like He is.
The recent appearance of the Christmas Star reminded me that God is still in charge. He has not changed His ways, and He will fulfill every promise He has made.
Thousands of years after God created the universe, astronomers (wise men) from the east observed: “a star” that they associated with Jewish prophecy concerning the birth of a uniquely anointed king—The Messiah (Matthew 2:1-12). Scholars still debate what that star was, with some suggesting it was the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. Whatever the star was, it brought scientists to the palace of King Herod in Jerusalem with the assumption that they would have the privilege of presenting gifts to a newborn that was destined to be king of the Jews.
Instead of seeing a newborn king they created confusion and observed a king who quickly became deeply disturbed and defensive. Herod asked clarifying questions about the appearance of the star, and then he sent them on their way with a request, “When you find him, report back to me so that I too can go and worship him.” We can be pretty sure of Herod’s motives based on how he responded when the scientists didn’t report back to him (Matt 2:16-18).
The scientists also encountered religious leaders who were quickly able to provide additional prophecy that clarified that this uniquely anointed king was to be born in Bethlehem not Jerusalem. However, the religious leaders were either uninterested in or unimpressed by the scientist’s observations. None of them took time to travel with them even though Bethlehem was only a few miles from Jerusalem.
The motives of the Jewish leaders are not as easily discerned. Were they offended that God was willing to use unwashed Gentiles? Were they exhibiting religious arrogance? Did their in-depth interpretation of the Holy Scriptures indicate that it wasn’t the right time? Were they revealing their intellectual blindness? Was their religion a purely legalistic, ritualistic faith? Were they spiritually indifferent?
My motives were challenged recently as I read the book Life is all about Relationships. It was written by a friend of mine, Dr. Leo Endel. For those who know me, you are aware that my personality moves naturally to the task side of the task—relationship pendulum. I was reminded as I read it, that as task-oriented as God is--what He said He would do He will always do—He always does it through relationships. It is interesting that the cover of the book shows people in relationships silhouetted against a starry night sky—which includes a particularly bright star.
What is God telling you through the Christmas Star?
Yours in Christ,
Mark R. Elliott, DoM
Now before you get too excited and think I have lost it, let me say what Amos said to Amaziah the priest of Bethel. “I am not a prophet nor am I the son of a prophet” (Amos 7:14 NAS). However, God has helped me to gain some wisdom and discernment in my threescore and ten years of life. On the eve of a new year, my wondering mind is pondering what it might hold. Now throw in the fact that I try to be an astute observer of human life and human interaction, and my imagination goes wild. Because 2020 has been a challenge beyond anything we had thought or imagined, any prediction for 2021 sounds plausible. Here are my thoughts.
Having been involved in attempting to mediate conflict in the church for years, I can see racial and political tensions in our nation continuing to escalate into the new year. I see people talking about each other rather than with each other. We are not having a substantive dialogue about real issues; instead, we are attacking and calling each other names. We have become so entrenched in our ideologies that we are not able to see flaws in them. We need to be willing to ask, “Am I more a part of the problem or a part of the solution?”
In my July 28th article, I talked about levels of conflict. Culturally we are at least at Level IV: Fight/Flight with some people already exhibiting Level V: Intractable attitudes and actions. Stop and ask yourself, “What must happen for this trajectory to change?” “Where will the leadership come from that can bring our nation together?”
Let me suggest that it will not come from the political arena or the white house in Washington! It can only come from spiritual leadership derived from humble prayer times in the church house! We have to step up, step out, and become part of the solution rather than being part of the problem. As hard as it will be, we must become the peacemakers.
To be true peacemakers, we will have to embrace and then live out the qualities Jesus described in the other Beatitudes:
3Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven—Humility will need to replace the hubris that exists in some of us. Pride comes before every fall. We need to reaffirm that every human being is an image-bearer of the God we claim to serve. And therefore, someone for whom Jesus died.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted—When is the last time that tears came to your eyes as you listened to the news or heard about another tragic death? Have we become numbed by the daily barrage of violence, and the never-ending consequences caused by the decimation of the nuclear family?
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth— Hypocrite is the word used most often by those outside the church to describe us. Our holier than thou attitude does not sell well. We need to reclaim Paul’s spirit as he wrote Timothy, “And I thank Christ Jesus for our Lord who has enabled me because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (I Tim 1:12-15).
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled—This is the very heart of the gospel we seek to proclaim. Paul stated, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’ For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them” (Romans 1:16-19).
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy—Mercy, grace, and compassion would be three words that would describe how Jesus responded to the common man. He had harsh words for the religious elite because they were quick to criticize and cast out those who were struggling in life. The story of the woman caught in adultery in John 7:53-8:11 is more a story about the scribes and the Pharisees “being right the wrong way” than it is about a woman who knew that “wrong was wrong.” We need to be “right the right way!”
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God—Our motives and intentions do matter. However, our hearts are easily self-deceived. Are we willing to listen to others when they criticize our approach to the lostness around us? Do we rail at the darkness more than we weep and mourn for the devastation caused by sin?
We are not yet at the point of needing the last two, but the time is rapidly approaching.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
I must confess that none of us know what the future holds, but we do know Who holds the future! And we know what we must do to change the future that I see coming our way. Are we willing to do it?
Yours in Christ,
Mark R. Elliott, DoM
Many of you have heard about and some of you have even been involved in World Changers. For those who have never heard of it, World Changers was a pre-packaged youth mission adventure that combined learning and using construction skills, connecting with people (usually in a cross cultural context), evangelism, and high-energy worship. It originated with the Brotherhood Commission in 1990, was moved under the umbrella of the North American Mission Board in 1997 with a major SBC restructuring, and then was later picked up by LifeWay. Unfortunately that nationally coordinated ministry has been discontinued.
Members of Heartland Community Baptist Church were involved for many years beginning in 2001 when Sioux City hosted its first World Changers. They are excited about establishing a similar ministry called LifeChanger Missions; and Heartland Church Network is pleased to come alongside them to support this impactful ministry. It will be held June 13-19, 2021. Here is a quick overview:
VISION: Changing lives one house at a time.
MISSION: Training teenagers and college students for Christian missions by transforming the lives of families through home repair and evangelism.
2021 THEME: “Answer the Call” Isaiah 6:8-9
There are multiple ways you can get involved.
For more information check out the facebook page, Life ChangerMissions. Our Heartland Church Network’s webpage and FaceBook will have information on it shortly.
If you have ever traveled in a predominantly Muslim country, you have heard the “Call to Prayer.” Every mosque has some way of making a public pronouncement much like churches used to ring their bells to announce it’s time for Sunday worship. But instead of hearing the bells once a week, you will hear the call to prayer five times a day.
If you have ever had a serious conversation with a Muslim, you have been asked, “Why don’t Christians pray?” For Islam, the daily prayers are one of the five pillars or foundational acts. The Five Pillars of Islam are the five obligations that every Muslim must satisfy in order to live a good and responsible life. A practicing Christian could honestly respond, “I do pray, but it’s not a ritualistic obligation that I do primarily in public. Rather it is a joy to come into the presence of almighty God on a daily basis in the quietness of my home, and on Sundays and special occasions I gather with other believes and we pray together.”
With Christianity, we are not tied to the legalistic works salvation of Islam. Much of the New Testament speaks to the reality that we were also freed from the legalism of Judaism. Paul speaks to that freedom in Romans 6:5-13:
For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise, you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
My daily Bible reading this morning was in the book of Hosea. That means I have recently read Jeremiah and Lamentations. When you read these books and take an honest look at our culture today, you have to see that our nation is on the brink of judgment. As I read scripture and history, I see two primary ways that God purifies His people. One is through a sweeping spiritual awakening, and the other is by simply removing His hand of protection and letting us “sow the wind and reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7).
The reality is that both individually (as a professing believer) and corporately (as the body of Christ) we get to choose our response: prayer and repentance that leads to spiritual renewal or staying our current course that leads to trials and tribulation. One of Henry Blackaby’s seven realities is that we must make major adjustments in our lives if we are going to join God in what He is doing.
I want to take this venue to humbly commit myself to a heightened time of prayer, fasting, and confession knowing “it’s me, it’s me O Lord, standing in the need of prayer1.”
God said to Solomon, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7:14)
Let me close by asking you if you have already committed yourself to a season of heightened prayer, fasting, and confession, let me know so we can encourage one another. If you haven’t made that commitment, I herein implore you to seek God’s face about making such a commitment. As we are in the midst of celebrating the arrival of the Christ child and approaching the new year, let me also extend a challenge to join me as I encourage Heartland Network churches to seek times of specific and focused prayer akin to what Joel called for in his day:
Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly; Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord. (Joel 1:14)
Lord, help us to prioritize prayer in a way that honors you and doesn’t move us into a legalistic, meaningless repetition of words or practices that simply become “sounding brass, or tinkling cymbal.” Help us, O Lord, to acknowledge our sins and turn from our wicked ways.
1Standing in the Need of Prayer. African Spiritual whose author is unknown.
This is the last of a series of articles on making changes in the church. I have emphasized that it must be the right change, done at the right time, and in the right way. I even threw in an example of Community Bible Church in Crofton where an established church recently voted unanimously (with one abstention) to make major changes. Church leaders laid a solid foundation and did it at the right time and in the right way.
When I talk about doing it the right way, I am emphasizing the fact that even if you have the authority to implement the right change and you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is the right time for that change, you can do it in an arbitrary way that alienates those who are needed to implement the change. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “It might have been the right thing to do, but it was done the wrong way.” Or, “I’m not upset about what he did, but how he did it.”
I have discovered that the right way can have a lot of moving parts that need to be identified and addressed. Here are a few of them:
A skilled leader will throw out ideas in informal settings, say over a cup of coffee. The Holy Spirit can filter the bad ones and reinforce the best ones. Then when a good idea is suggested, the leader who planted the seed of thought can say, “You know I think that idea has some promise.” Effective leaders create an environment where people are granted the freedom to suggest new ideas. That is an environment where multiple ideas are regularly discussed, evaluated, and prayed over. Then when changes are proposed, church members know that the idea has been thoroughly evaluated and prayerfully considered.
My prayer is that this series of articles will help you as you identify the right changes, implement them at the right time, and do it the right way.
My favorite memory from my seminary education days is the “rabbit trails” that Dr. T. W. Hunt would take us down in the midst of one of his lectures. God has since called him home, but you might remember him as the author of the study guide Prayer Life: Walking in Fellowship with God. It along with Dr. Henry Blackaby’s study Experiencing God have been two resources that I have regularly recommended and returned to when I need to be reminded of the basics of the Christian walk.
Dr. Hunt taught a music class that was a basic requirement for those of us who were pursuing a Master of Divinity. I remember a few things about music from the class, but more about developing an attitude of genuine thankfulness in my prayer life. One particular rabbit trail was imprinted upon my mind as Dr. Hunt began to give thanks for silverware, toothbrushes, and other common everyday tools we take for granted.
As a typical seminary student, we lived a very frugal life. However, as a non-traditional student who had walked away from an upper-middle-class vocation with three older children, we were living at a level significantly below what we had grown accustomed to living. God used the idea of being thankful for “small insignificant” things to get my attention. I must admit that it is easy to slide back into the entitlement mindset as a typical affluent American.
As a typical American, we rent a storage unit to hold “the stuff” that our house can’t hold. And yes, as a typical suburban American, we live in a nice sized home filled with lots of stuff. Normally, we would already be on the road connecting with family. But this Thanksgiving our plans are different. It is 2020! We will not be traveling for our traditional family gathering in Oklahoma. The recent COVID flare-up has taken that option off the table.
But we are deeply thankful for the fact that my wife Phyllis is home from the hospital and recovering from her bout with COVID. Having lost my first wife to a sudden infection, having Phyllis in the hospital brought back a flood of memories. So once again, God is reminding me to be thankful. This time it is for life itself. Thank you, Lord, for your compassion and care for Phyllis. Thank you, Jesus, for the salvation and eternal hope that You alone provide.
My prayer is that Thanksgiving 2020 will be a time when you and your family can give thanks to God for the multitude of “little insignificant things” that He has provided. I feel so unworthy of His love and provision. Thank You Lord! Forgive me Lord! Thank You Lord!
When Pastor Mark McClintick resigned as pastor of the Community Bible Church (CBC) in January, he introduced the church elders to Mark Elliott, Heartland Church Network’s Associational Mission Strategist. Mark Elliott preached the first Sunday in February which was their first Sunday without Pastor McClintick. After the worship service, he met with the congregation for a question and answer time and to discuss next steps.
Over the next several weeks, Mark met with the elders, who have served as the pastor search committee, for a series of training sessions. When the COVID pandemic hit, the final sessions moved on-line. Community Bible Church’s building is located four miles west of Crofton, NE with a population of 726. For those not familiar with the area Crofton is located just fifteen miles southwest of Yankton, SD. CBC is a healthy small church, but is not able to financially support a full-time pastor.
Mark Elliott reached out to long-time colleague, Buck Hill, who has served Southern Baptists in the Dakotas for several decades. Through their conversation, Mark was introduced to and visited with Pastor Jeff Mueller of Restore Church in Yankton, a five year old church plant. Mark then visited with Pastor Mueller, who was serving bi-vocationally, about the possibility of working with CBC and the “option” of serving two bi-vocational churches. Hearing some openness to prayerfully consider it, Mark then visited with the elders of CBC. Obviously, it was not something the search committee had considered, but they were open to meeting with Pastor Mueller and discussing the options.
To make a long story short, after multiple conversations, meetings, and times of prayer, the pastor search committee presented a proposal to the church on November 1 (see below) and on November 8th, Pastor Jeff came for a Q & A time after the morning service. During the next week search committee members visited with church members seeking to learn what concerns they may have as well as answer any and all questions. On Sunday the 15th the members voted unanimously (with one abstention) to approve the proposal.
Vision is what gives a local church purpose and both shapes and expresses its values. Our original purpose statement and our Mission and Core Values declare that Community Bible is about teaching the Bible, evangelism and having an impact on our communities. As we have prayerfully considered what should shape the church into the future we have embraced this vision: a thriving gospel-centered church that is intentionally serving the larger Crofton area and making disciples of Jesus Christ.
Over the years both our church and our communities have changed. We have agreed that we intend to continue as a church. But we also would recognize that we are not realizing the vision and that change is needed.
We, the search committee of Community Bible, have spent much of this past year discussing, consulting, and praying in order to seek the best way for us to fulfill the vision.
This is our proposal:
Close Community Bible Church and start a new church, Restore Crofton, with Jeff Mueller as pastor. We are grateful for the heritage of Community Bible Church. We have much to celebrate and give thanks for. Yet the church has come to a place where we in honesty are not realizing the vision. Seeking to call a new pastor and making changes to the current church by closing the church for two or three months, we will have opportunity to plan and prepare for the new launch. During this time we encourage our body to attend Restore Yankton and get better acquainted with that church family and the life and values we are embracing.
An important aspect of the closing will be our communicating to the community that Community Bible is not gone, but rather that something new is coming. The launch of Restore Crofton will be well planned and publicized, shaped by our vision of reaching into the community to serve it and present the invitation of the gospel.
Restore Crofton will be an autonomous church. It will be a new church with a new biblical foundation. We will have our own building, finances, and leadership. In ministry and outreach principles and practice we will be a sister church to Restore Yankton.
We believe this is the best way for the vision of the church to be realized.
The Search Committee
Pray for Pastor Jeff Mueller, the leaders, and members as Community Bible Church makes the transformation to become Restore Crofton.
Recent articles have focused on leading change in the church. I have emphasized how hard it is to make sure we are making the right change, and now I am in the midst of talking about doing it at the right time, and in future articles, I will talk about doing it the right way. Regarding timing, I already suggested your personality (particularly if you are quick or slow to change) and prayer were two significant issues related to timing.
Today, I want to suggest that the scope and scale of the changes will also impact when it is time. When I speak of scope, I am asking will the changes you’re anticipating have a short or long-range impact. By scale I mean are they minor tweaks or major transformations. To have clarity with both scope and scale you need to remember my discussion a few weeks ago on your personality. If you are someone who always has a new idea to implement, or if you are someone who is reluctant to make any changes, you WILL NEED TO SURROUND YOURSELF WITH TRUSTED FRIENDS who are willing to help you analyze scope and scale.
There are a lot of adaptive changes that we make in day-to-day life to compensate for the unforeseen. These I would classify as short-range in scope. For example, you wake up sicker than a dog some Sunday morning and you have to call someone to preach for you. Or your worship leader has a major surgical procedure that restricts their availability for a few weeks. There have been changes related to COVID restrictions that we have had to make assuming that they would be short term. But the longer we navigate this uncharted water, the more we are becoming aware of the long-range changes that we are going to have to consider. Churches that never ever dreamed of using technology have begun using some form of on-line communication. Most have already acknowledged that even if we were to get back to “normal” next month, they would still continue their on-line presence. All of a sudden, the scope jumped from short term to long-term out of necessity without any strategic planning or thought.
The scope has specific implications as it relates to spiritual growth. It generally comes through small, daily, almost imperceptible, changes. This process repeated over a lifetime can yield deep lasting transformation. Paul gives us a picture of it in Romans 12:1-2:
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
I cannot read this verse without bemoaning the fact that we fail to bring the full impact of the Greek word translated “be transformed” into our English Bibles. We use the Greek word in the realm of science, but fail to bring its impactful meaning into the more important area of faith: μεταμορφοῦσθε (metamorphosis). The scope of the long-term transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly is almost impossible to comprehend. But the day-to-day changes are of a scope that is almost invisible to see.
Changes related to scale will always be relative to your church’s size. Adding a new adult small group might mean doubling the number from one to two. A leap of faith for a small church might mean providing a community meal once a month. It might mean helping two or three children or youth afford to attend summer camp. For a larger church, it might mean moving from three to four worship services a week. Or it could mean taking a step of faith and sponsoring a new church plant.
The reality is that from time-to-time, God expects us to stretch ourselves. As Paul put it, “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14). If the scope of the changes you are suggesting can be done in your own strength and without significant sacrifice or the fear of failure, your vision for change is too small. However, if you are in a situation where decline and despair prevail, then the scope of your changes need to be baby steps of faith.
Let me suggest that God has brought YOU to a place of leadership in the church for such a time as this. He is leading us to make the right kind of changes (those that create a Christ-like metamorphosis), and we are in a day and time of deep cultural crisis where now is the time for us to be reaching up to reflect Christ instead of continuing to reflect our culture. I would encourage you and your church’s leadership to prayerfully discuss your disciple-making process. Is it yielding deep life-transforming metamorphosis or comfortable consumer Christians?
Yours in Christ,
Mark R. Elliott, DoM
Heartland Church Network
For several weeks I have been focusing on leading change in the church. I have emphasized how hard it is to make sure we are making the right change, and now I am in the midst of talking about doing it at the right time, and in future articles, I will talk about doing it the right way. But I heard something this past weekend that forces me to pause and remind us what God wants us to look like when we have made the right changes, at the right time, in the right way.
This past weekend Calvary Baptist Church in Glenwood held its Second Annual mission emphasis, and one of their speakers is a missionary with our International Mission Board (IMB). By the way: Thank you Pastor Matt Rappley and Calvary for your ongoing support of missionaries and the way you live out the Acts 1:8 challenge. Because the IMB missionary and his family serve in what is called a Level III area (a country that does not grant missionary visas) I will not give his name in this article, but if you are interested in contacting him, ask and I will give you his prayer advocate’s e-mail address.
In the region where he serves, God is moving mightily among people who have been hard to reach. The foundational principle missionaries and local pastors use provides a picture of what the Bible tells us that the church is supposed to be. Just a reminder, the New Testament word we translate into the English word church literally means “those whom God calls to serve Him.” Their principle is...
God is changing the world through regular, ordinary believers who are filled with the Holy Spirit and who are convinced and acting on the conviction that Jesus is coming soon.
God is changing the world: “ Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” II Cor 5:17. Unfortunately, in too many American churches deep genuine life transformation (Romans 12:1-2) is a rare exception rather than the norm. David Platt’s book Radical should actually be titled Normal Christianity.
Through regular, ordinary believers: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” I Peter 2:9. Remember, Peter was writing to early believers who had been scattered due to the Jewish persecution in Jerusalem—not to early apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Peter was simply echoing what God desired the nation of Israel to be. Through Moses, God said, “if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” Exodus 19:5-6.
Who are filled with the Holy Spirit: Two passages Baptists love to preach, but too often practice using our own power and abilities are Acts 1:8 and Matthew 28 18-20. “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” Acts 1:8. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” Matt 28:18-20. As promised, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to indwell the believer.
Who are convinced and acting on the conviction that Jesus is coming soon: The small group I lead on Wednesday nights is currently studying Jesus’ letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor from Revelation 2-3. As you study them, one thing you can’t miss is that the early churches—even ones who were chastened—endured persecution that often led to death. But they maintained a passion and sense of urgency for others to hear about Jesus. The comfort and leisure of American Christianity has led us to an intellectual affirmation that Jesus is coming, but it has somehow created apathy. Maybe we have lost our first love like the church in Ephesus. Or we have watered down the word of God like the church in Pergamos. Or we are allowing people in our church to live in open disobedience to God without lovingly saying something to them like the church in Thyatira. Or we are a church that thinks we are alive, but we are really dead like the church in Sardis. Or we have become a lukewarm church, neither hot nor cold, like the church in Laodicea.
No matter where your church is today, the right changes, at the right time, in the right way should be making you more obedient to God’s vision for churches being used by God to change the world through regular, ordinary believers who are filled with the Holy Spirit and who are convinced and acting on the conviction that Jesus is coming soon.
Leading Change in Your Church
Mark is in his twenty-seventh year of serving as an Associational Missions Strategist. He served in western Iowa for almost eight years, and is in his nineteenth year with HCN. He has a passion to see pastors and church leaders grow in their abilities to lead their churches. He continues to have a heart and desire to see new churches planted and God continues to use his strategic thinking skills in this area. Mark also has a wealth of experience in helping churches clarify who God has created them to be, and what they can do best to reach their community. He has had ample opportunities to help churches in times of conflict, and has seen God do exciting things to restore a spirit of harmony, returning churches to a time of fruitfulness. He also helps churches in transition by working with search committees. Mark and Phyllis who were married in November of 2018 have four children and three grandchildren. They will enjoy their combined 87th anniversary in just a few days.