GP Men’s Ministry (by Jeremy Davis)

Men’s Ministry Mission:  Our mission is to equip men to be strong in their faith in Jesus Christ and be His disciple-makers at home, at church and in the world.  

My goal for this blog post is to share the men’s ministry’s heart for equipping the men of God to be disciple-makers. What does it mean to equip? First, we need to establish that equipping is a biblical principle. Let us look at Ephesians 4:11-13 to see God’s heart for the equipping of the saints.    

Ephesians 4:11-13  

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…  

Clearly, Ephesians 4:11-13 teaches us that equipping is a necessity within the Body of Christ. The Greek Word for equip is Katartismos which means to make someone completely adequate or sufficient for something. In this case, the text teaches us two things: who is equipping us and what are we being equipped for. Let’s take a look at who God gave us to help with equipping us.  

Who Equips? (Ephesians 4:11-12a)  

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds/pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints…  

The Apostles – These men were a gift to the church, first hand eye witnesses of Jesus, commissioned by Jesus to carry out God’s Mission. God used many of these men to record the Scriptures, to be a vector of transmission for the Gospel to spread throughout the world. These were the first believers, many faithful in the midst of persecution and martyrdom. Even though the days of the apostles ended when John on Patmos passed away, they still are a gift to the church because we read their teachings as they were carried on by the Holy Spirit.  

The Prophets – These are the men who proclaim God’s Word, speaking on His behalf namely through the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. The term prophet has two meanings. The first meaning points us back to the prophets recorded in the Bible. They spoke on behalf of God prior to the closing of the Canon of Scripture. The second meaning refers to those who always point us back to God’s Word, often in powerful and personal ways, since the closing of the Canon of Scripture. As has been said, prophecy is sometimes foretelling, and other times forthtelling (pointed exhortation based solidly on God’s Word). These men serve as a gift to the church, studying God’s Word and presenting God’s Word for the flock to feed on corporately. They also provide a steadfastness to the flock as they always point us back to the Word of God.  

The Evangelists – These are the men who would go from place to place proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. Often times going to places where the Gospel was unknown. Romans 10:15, And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Someone had to bring the Gospel to you, therefore we are to bring that Good News to others.  

The Shepherds/Pastors – These are the men responsible for supplying care and guidance to the local church body. Jesus referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd, leading the sheep and protecting them from any predator. These are the men who have direct care over the flock. They are a gift to the church, living selflessly to care for the good of the flock.   

The Teachers – These are the men who provide instruction. They instruct the body of Christ through their study of God’s Word, lessons God has taught them, personal testimony and instruction on how to live a godly life. They are invested and supporting their pupils in the instruction of the Lord.   

Believe it or not, all of these are equipping the GP Men’s Ministry in one form or another.

oThe Apostles have served faithfully as caretakers of God’s Word, writing it down for our study to this day. We have the inerrant Word of God because of God using their faithfulness. The Prophets speak God’s truth and always direct us to the Word of God. The Evangelists, those who travel bringing the Word of God, sometimes stop by GP Men’s Ministry as speakers to challenge and equip us. The GP Pastors/Shepherds supply care for our Men’s Ministry flock guiding us to pasture on the Word of God. The Teachers leading the small groups in the study of God’s Word, and providing wisdom on godly living.  

We established the who equips, now what are we being equipped for? We look at verses 12-13 for this answer;  “12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…”  

The Work of Ministry –  We are equipped to serve one another, the word ministry often connotates a ministry that is humble or menial in nature. We are equipped to care and caring for one another can often be unglamorous. This is the life on life daily grind of loving one another.  

Building Up The Body of Christ – We are equipped to build one another up, a large construction project to raise up the believers, ultimately being fulfilled in the Christ-likeness of the Body of Christ at Christ’s return.  

Unity of Faith – We are equipped to have a oneness and unity amongst us. We are to be of one mind and one accord. Philippians 2:2 “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”  

The Knowledge of The Son of God – We are equipped to have content and knowledge of Jesus Christ, of what He accomplished, of who He is, of His redemptive works in restoring us to Himself.   

Mature Manhood – We are equipped to have a mature behavior recognizing the purchase that Christ made in His Crucifixion and our Redemption.  

Measure of The Stature of The Fullness of Christ – We are equipped to be more like Christ day by day, progressing in our sanctification day by day.   

Our mission is to equip men to be strong in their faith in Jesus Christ and be His disciple-makers at home, at church and in the world. Our mission is rooted in the Word of God as we long to see the men of Grace Point live out their calling as men of God. We believe God has equipped His people with spiritual gifts used for the building up of the body (Romans 12:3-8 see below). GP Men’s Ministry desires to see the men of Grace Point exercising their gifts for God’s glory. What are the practical ways we carry out these theological pillars?  

1.) We long to see men get connected in small groups, where they have an opportunity to have authentic godly relationships with other men. We desire to see men get into the Word of God together, to share the trials of life together, to pray together, to evangelize together, to fellowship together, to hold one another accountable ultimately loving one another.  

2.) We long to provide opportunities for all the men to come together, perhaps for a Men’s Breakfast, Men’s Retreat or other event. The goal remains the same, in this case corporately equipping all the men to be strong in their faith in Christ and be His disciple-makers.   

3.) Lastly we want to come alongside of Men encouraging them to get into the Word of God individually, providing resources to equip them in their study of the Scriptures.   

Our mission is to equip men to be strong in their faith in Jesus Christ and be His disciple-makers at home, at church and in the world.  

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.  

Romans 12:3-8  

The Point – A Great Group to Connect With!

An Introduction to The Point, by Emma Holmes

The Heart of the Ministry

The heart of The Point ministry is creating and engaging a community of young adults by gathering and growing together through following Jesus and His teachings. The Point meets every Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m at Grace Point. This is a group of 20s and 30s that meet no matter where you are in your faith journey. In Hebrews 10:23-25, the writer captures this ministry’s heart completely by stating, “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as in the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near”.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works”

Hebrews 10:24

Highlights of the Ministry

Some highlights of this ministry include seeing how this generation comes together to encourage one another with Biblical teachings and Christ-like love. Each week we welcome new faces to The Point, as well as greeting familiar faces too! Below are some of the smiling faces we see each week!

The Point is led by Emma Holmes, under the direction of Jeremy Davis, Director of Student Ministries.

Interested in learning more about The Point, email us at the.point@gracepointpa.org or follow us on Instagram.

Middle East FOCUS Update: Lebanon Relief

Written by Brenna L., Middle East FOCUS Team

If you’ve been around Grace Point for a while, you’ve probably heard about our FOCUS in Lebanon. Lebanon has faced a refugee crisis for the past several years due to war in neighboring countries. The coronavirus lockdowns made this situation even worse. Then in August, a massive explosion devastated the city of Beirut. The impact was so great that every window in Beirut shattered, but with those shattered windows came open doors that had been shut for months because of the lockdowns.

When the FOCUS team learned of the gravity of the situation, we knew that we wanted to give, and we knew Horizons would be a great steward of whatever money we were able to raise. Over the past few months, we have sent over $34,000. This money has gone to the Lebanon Crisis Fund, a fund set up to bring vital humanitarian aid and the Gospel message to those devastated by the explosion and the worsening economic crisis.

Horizons is the perfect ministry to help because, although they are an international organization, they have local staff that live and work in Beirut. They are trusted in the communities as authentic, caring people deeply committed to loving their neighbors and sharing the Gospel while giving practical help to people who are suffering tremendous loss and unimaginable poverty.

Almost immediately after the explosion, Horizons set up three strategic sites around Beirut which served as launch points for teams of staff and volunteers, logistical centers, and drop sites for food and supplies. Several local churches, whose own buildings had been severely damaged, joined Horizons to minister to traumatized people around the blast site. Roughly 65 indigenous partner churches serve with Horizons in Lebanon preparing food, repairing damaged homes, and giving medical care. Horizons volunteers and staff are often able to stay and visit in the newly-repaired homes to pray and read the Bible with people who may be hearing the Gospel for the first time. After seeing how the people from Horizons work with such love and faith to meet their needs, they often cannot wait for their new friends to visit again. Horizons staff reports many examples of people asking for Bibles, church recommendations, and prayer. God is using believers in Beirut to show that He is good, and the FOCUS team is so thrilled that Grace Point gets to participate in this firsthand.

One of our goals from the beginning of the FOCUS process was for Grace Point’s unique resources and gifts to be multiplied, and, although things look very different than we ever imagined, the FOCUS team is so happy to report that God is, in fact, multiplying what we have given. 

Money from the Lebanon Crisis fund has also been used to purchase much-needed food (over 88,000 meals) and medicines. Please continue to pray for people who are hurting and for the Horizons volunteers and staff to be refreshed and used in mighty ways by the Lord. 

Middle East FOCUS Team Update

By Denise Nichols, Middle East FOCUS Team Leader

It seems like little has gone according to plan in 2020…at least in our minds. That certainly has been true for Grace Point’s Middle East FOCUS (our 3 to 5-year mission partnership) as well. But we have an amazing God and nothing, not even a pandemic, can thwart His plans! It is such a comfort to know that God is always in control!

A few members of the FOCUS Implementation Team were scheduled to travel to Lebanon this spring for a ministry development trip. The purpose of this trip was to explore the various ministry opportunities that might be a good fit for Grace Point and to identify one or more opportunities for our first Lebanon mission trip this summer.  We also were planning on in-depth meetings with Amchit Baptist Church, our potential church partner, to determine how we could come alongside each other in ministry and, hopefully, solidify an official partnership. We were disappointed and, quite honestly, rather discouraged that the COVID-19 travel restrictions prevented us from going on either of these trips.

God had other plans. Romans 8:28 reminds us, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” We knew that we could trust in God’s perfect plan, not letting discouragement win. We knew that we needed to keep the FOCUS moving forward even though it was going to look very different than we had anticipated.     

The FOCUS Implementation Team has continued to meet regularly. Relying on God’s leading and direction, we began to explore some important questions. What does an effective Lebanon mission initiative look like when we can’t travel? How do we engage the congregation? How do we stay excited ourselves, not losing our momentum?

In June we held a Taste of Lebanon drive-thru event as a way to introduce Lebanese culture and delicious Lebanese food. A total of 152 meals were ordered from King of Falafel in Newtown, and $3,000 was raised for the ministry at Amchit Baptist Church. The event was quite a success and received very positive feedback. Be on the lookout for our next event! 

In July we held our first joint prayer meeting over Zoom with a few members of our team, Dave Wolf and leaders of Amchit Baptist. It was a sweet and powerful time of unity which strengthened the connection between our two churches. We have also been able to deepen our relationship with Amchit through regular communication, sharing prayer requests and becoming more invested in each other’s lives. We were very encouraged to know that they have been attending our online Sunday morning services! That would have been something we never would have imagined, but it has been an exciting part of God’s plan. 

A joint prayer time with Amchit Baptist Church.

In August, we established the Lebanon Relief Fund because of the deepening crisis in Lebanon.  Their economy has totally collapsed, prices have skyrocketed, unemployment has soared and those fortunate to keep their jobs have found their salaries cut drastically. In a country known for its hospitality, people are struggling to feed themselves and their families, let alone celebrate and share with others. The pandemic exacerbated this crisis and the recent explosion in Beirut took it to even more desperate levels.

Our ministry partner in Lebanon, Horizons International, has a vibrant and powerful ministry network, as well as a trustworthy reputation. They have been working hard to address the needs of the people, providing humanitarian aid for churches to distribute to those in need (up to 3,000 lunches per day!) In addition, their teams have been spending their days assisting in the clean up after the explosion and taping plastic over some of the millions of blown out windows. God has opened up the door to even more service and outreach opportunities as they share the Gospel with those they are helping.

Also, the owner of King of Falafel (from our Taste of Lebanon event) wanted to raise money for Lebanon relief and asked if she could donate it through Grace Point because she knew we were a trustworthy organization. This connection with our local Middle Eastern community was beyond what we could have planned, but it was part of God’s plan.

In just two short weeks since establishing the Lebanon Relief Fund, thanks to the generosity of the Grace Point family, we have been able to send over $34,000 to assist Horizons in their work, with a portion going to meet the needs of the members of Amchit Baptist Church and their community. If you have already given to the Lebanon Relief fund, thank you! Because the needs are great and on-going, we will continue to receive and forward funds. If you would like to make a contribution, go to: http://giving.gracepointpa.org and select the “Lebanon Relief” fund. 

Ephesians 3:20 reminds us that our God is a God “who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” He has given us so many examples of this during these past few months, and we know that there are many more to come!  We are humbled to be part of God’s plan, serving the people of Lebanon and sharing His love.

We can’t wait to see what God has planned next!

Update from Lebanon – August 24

Grace Point,

Last week, we received the update below from one of our partners working on the ground in Lebanon. Please continue to pray for the people of Lebanon and our ministry partners. You can give to support our Lebanon Relief Offering by going here and selecting the “Lebanon Relief” fund: http://giving.gracepointpa.org

Here’s the update:

People are still very traumatized. The psychological shock seems to just be setting in. Many are injured and/or have lost so much.

The four most important hospitals in Beirut were destroyed.

The Horizons International teams have shifted to doing primarily building restoration. They are going to apartments and offering to replace glass and doors, mostly with plastic. While/after they do repairs, they share the Gospel and pray with the people.

Five people recently accepted Christ in one neighborhood.

Meanwhile, the churches are still focused on distributing sandwiches—approximately 2,500-3,000 per day! Horizons is providing some of the ingredients or money to buy the ingredients. The church members and their volunteers are making and distributing them.

Horizons also is distributing 100 food portion packages to each church.

Prayer requests: The teams really need rest. They are working long days in hard places. They are facing much pain and tears as they go from apartment to apartment, so it is psychologically very draining. It is hard to keep going.

Horizons Ministry Partner

Source: Horizons International Facebook Page

GP Responds – Lebanon Relief

The situation in Lebanon has reached catastrophic levels. The economy has totally collapsed in recent months, leaving many without jobs while prices have skyrocketed. There is widespread desperation as many, many are going hungry, either unable to find or unable to afford food for themselves and their families. The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified these issues and the devastation caused by the recent port explosion in Beirut has further compounded the magnitude of the desperation they are facing.  

In recent days, we have had many conversations focused on the burning question of “What can we do to help?” in the midst of such the desperate situation that Lebanon is currently facing.  Prayer and generosity are needed as never before.

The consistent answer from our ministry partners is that humanitarian aid is the highest priority at the moment.

Join us in supporting disaster relief efforts in Lebanon. Since last week’s explosion in Beirut, the country of Lebanon has plunged even deeper into turmoil, crisis and desperation with many people struggling to find food, receive medical care and rebuild their homes.

In an effort to help meet practical needs, we have established a Lebanon Relief Offering, to which you can give to financially support the relief efforts in Beirut. All funds collected through this offering will be sent to one of our ministry partners, Horizons International, who will provide food and supplies to help families in Beirut. You can give online and select “Lebanon Relief” and all funds will be sent to Horizons International. Grace Point’s online giving link: http://giving.gracepointpa.org

Middle East FOCUS Team Commitment

Additionally, through the gutsy generosity already demonstrated by a donor in our church, our Middle East FOCUS Team will be immediately sending a significant donation to assist with humanitarian aid through Horizons International. Together we hope to make an impact for God’s kingdom while also meeting practical needs for many who are hurting in the midst of this disaster.

We will designate a portion of the funds towards relief work and humanitarian aid. In Beirut, Horizons is now mobilizing teams that each day make sandwiches, hand out food and water, and go from apartment to apartment with rolls of plastic and tape to help residents cover some of the millions of windows that were blown out in the explosion. The long hours of work are exhausting, and desperate people can explode in anger when food runs out. But there are also many opportunities to pray with people and God’s love is shining at this dark time.

The remaining amount will be sent via Horizons International to our intended partner church, Amchit Baptist Church. These funds will provide humanitarian aid for those suffering in their congregation as well as those in the surrounding area. It may also provide assistance for the church’s operating needs as their bi-vocational pastor (fully un-paid volunteer) was just let go from his “day job.”

Continue to pray for the people of Lebanon and for our ministry partners working around the clock to help their community in this terrible situation.

To see our ministry partner in action, be sure to follow Horizons International on Facebook.

Thank you!

If you have any questions, please contact our Middle East FOCUS Team Leader, Denise Nichols at focus@gracepointpa.org.

Image sources: https://www.facebook.com/HorizonsPDE

Flag of Lebanon

21 Days of Prayer for our Lebanon FOCUS

Please join us in PRAISING God for His clear leading in choosing the Lebanon FOCUS, as well as unanimous support from FOCUS Selection team, elders and staff. As we pray, ask God to do something through us that is beyond us!

Below are prayers for the next 21 days, as we pray for Grace Point’s new missions FOCUS Lebanon and Syria. To learn more about our FOCUS, visit our website.

1. Pray for the formation of the FOCUS Implementation Team that God would bring together the right people and the right gifts.  Pray for wisdom, humility and discernment.

2. Pray that the FOCUS Implementation Team would be spiritually prepared for the work ahead of them.  Pray that they will have unity and be spiritually discerning, trusting in God’s plan and not their own.

3. Pray for a growing vision and passion in our congregation to reach people for Christ worldwide.  Pray for a deepening of our commitment to missions, both individually as corporately.

4. Pray for unity among our congregation we embark on the Lebanon FOCUS. Pray that this will be a church-wide effort, involving everyone in some capacity- whether on trips, through financial support or through prayer. Pray that we can use the gifts of the congregation through a wide variety of potential ministry opportunities.

5. Pray that God is glorified with every aspect of our FOCUS and that our primary goal always remains to glorify Him as we reach others with the gospel and minister to their needs. Pray that we remain committed to evangelism and disciple-making as our priorities in developing potential ministry opportunities.

6. Pray that God fills our hearts with a deep, genuine and sacrificial love for refugees both in Lebanon and at home. Pray that God fills our hearts with compassion for others, particularly those that have been displaced from their homes.

7. Pray that we would view Muslim people the way that God does, as people desperately in need of Jesus, worthy of His love and worthy of our love.

8. Pray for our pastors, elders, staff and other leaders as they help facilitate our FOCUS. Pray for wisdom in leading Grace Point as we embark on our FOCUS.

9. Pray for victory over the spiritual warfare that we will face as we seek to bring the light of the gospel to darkness. Pray that we would all wear the full Armor of God against the enemy’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:11-18)

10. Pray that God uses the FOCUS endeavor to change our hearts and to grow to become more Christ-like. Pray that we can learn through the example of those facing such tremendous hardships yet find their true joy in Christ rather than their circumstances.

11. Pray that the FOCUS strengthens GP families’ interest and commitment to missions. Pray that through the FOCUS, we help teach our children to love others the way God does. Pray that we engage the entire family well, including children and teens.

12. Pray that we continue to act in obedience to what God is calling us to do and not be distracted by fear.

13. Pray for peace in the region. Pray for our enemies. Pray for political leaders around the world and the de-escalation of the current conflict. Pray that differing political views do not interfere with our goal of reaching others for Christ.

14. Pray for the believers in Syria, both for physical protection as well as the hardships that they face. Pray for the believers in Syria as they seek to share Christ with non-believers.

15. Pray that God would enlighten the hearts of Muslims who are searching for spiritual truth, that they will come to know and experience Christ.

16. Pray for a hedge of protection around the Syrian pastors who put themselves and their families at great risk yet are courageous enough to continue their work for God’s kingdom.

17. Pray for the Syrian refugees in Beirut as they face many hardships. Pray for them as they face persecution from their families for having converted to Christianity. Pray for all who have recently come to Christ that God would strengthen and encourage them as they face hardships, persecution and family tensions.

18. Pray that we can be an encouragement to those we will minister to, both directly and indirectly. Pray that we are sensitive to cultural differences.

19. Pray for the spiritual development, strength and growth of the potential partner church and ministries in Lebanon. Pray for resolve and steadfastness for the other churches and missionaries that are working faithfully in Lebanon/Syria.

20. Pray for the local church that we will be partnering with, that God will show us how we can best come alongside them in ministry. Pray for humility as we seek to learn from them as well.

21. Pray for Horizons International (our on the ground partner in Lebanon) as well as Ananais House (our on the ground partner in Syria). Pray for Ellen Livingood and Kinship Network in coordinating missions efforts in Lebanon and Syria involving other North American churches.

12 Months Later – Water Wells in Cambodia

Many of you may remember that last year’s combined Thanksgiving and Christmas offering was designated to help build fresh water wells in villages in the country of Cambodia by partnering with Samaritan’s Purse. We had set a goal of raising $20,000 for these wells.

Not only did we meet our goal, but we surpassed it! In the end, we raised $60,000 for the fresh water well projects. Wow!

Many of you have been asking, “What happened? Did they build the wells? Is there an update?” I have good news! Last week, I received an update from Samaritan’s Purse, and it included a video from the village!

Over the last 12 months, the staff and personnel with Samaritan’s Purse have been actively working to build and complete the wells in three villages in Cambodia. Below is a video from one of the project leaders thanking Grace Point personally for our generosity in helping to build these wells, and bring much needed fresh water to these people.

Thank you for your generosity and for helping to bring fresh water to the 300 families (1,500 people) in three villages of Banteay Meanchey, Cambodia.

Dirty Water
Previous water supply for the village.

Completed Water Well
A completed fresh water well in the village.

Children from the local school who live in the village.

FOCUS Survey Trip Prayer Requests – Thailand

Thank you for praying for our FOCUS Survey trips! We had a great trip to Lebanon and now we look ahead to our Thailand Survey trip. Here’s how you can pray for our team!

Prayer Requests for Grace Point Survey Trips
Thailand Trip / August 21-28

  1. Pray for the FOCUS Selection Team as they get better acquainted with the ministry of Converge in Thailand. Pray for the director of the Thai Buddhist Initiative, Rick Berry.
  2. Pray for the spiritual preparation of the survey team going to Thailand: Steve Weir, Dave Wolf, Denise Nichols, and Ellen Livingood. Ask God to give them spiritual discernment, clean hearts, and minds yielded to the Lord. Pray for good health and safety before, during, and after the trip. The weather will be hot and humid, so pray for endurance during long days.
  3. Pray for each of the missionaries and national Thai pastors and leaders with whom the GP team will meet. Ask God to use the GPers to encourage and be a blessing to these men and women. Pray that each conversation will help to give a clear picture of what God is doing and how partnership might contribute.
  4. The team will leave on Wednesday morning, August 21, for Newark airport and a non-stop, 16-hour flight to Hong Kong. After a 2½ -hour layover, there will be another three-hour flight into Bangkok, arriving Thursday evening at 11:30. Pray that each person can get some quality sleep on this long trip.
  5. Pray for stamina for the team on Friday, August 23, as they spend the day seeing English centers with Converge missionary Steve Cable and then attend a church service in the evening. Ask God to give each person the ability to focus and absorb lots of new information despite jetlag. Pray that the GPers will be guided to ask insightful questions.
  6. On Saturday, August 24, the team will meet with leaders of the ministry that is teaching English to women who have been caught in the sex trade. Ask God to give the team the ability to understand some of the complexity of ministry to women caught in this vast evil that unfortunately is a trademark of Bangkok. Pray that our Grace Pointers can be an encouragement to those who work with these women.
  7. On Sunday, August 25, the team will take a short flight to Udon to see a training ministry that Converge is involved with there. Pray that our GPers can begin to understand the leadership needs for the new house churches that God is raising up all across this land and what the opportunities are like to be a part of serving church leaders in training.
  8. On Monday, August 26, the team will spend the day learning about the background of Thai culture and Buddhist religious beliefs and practices. Pray that they will be able to see the implications for ministry in this nation where only an estimated ½ of 1 percent are evangelical believers.
  9. On Tuesday, August 27, the team will spend a portion of the day meeting with local Thai leaders. Pray for good translation and clear communication. Ask God to help GPers grasp the big picture as they are exposed to so much new information.
  10. Shortly after midnight on Wednesday, August 27, Steve, Dave, and Denise will start their journey home. Pray for the connection in Hong Kong and for rest on the long journey. Ellen will take a short flight to Singapore where she will spend the next three days doing training with a number of sending-base leaders, board members, and volunteers who serve with the mission agency World Outreach. Pray that each of these sessions will be highly valuable to these people who are mobilizing sending churches in places as different as South Africa, the Netherlands, and Malaysia.

Converge Responds: El Paso, Dayton Tragedies

This past weekend our headlines were again filled with reports of violence and tragedy and our hearts were saddened and heavy at the news of more lives lost. We struggle to find answers and are unable in the midst of these senseless acts.

Scott Ridout, president of Converge, has written the following response that I find helpful and full of reminders in the midst of these tragedies.

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity (Col. 4:5).

Lisa and I were looking forward to quiet first weekend of August. We had experienced a busy summer of travel, including ministry trips to Minnesota, Canada, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and a great time with our missionaries from Europe and Africa in Germany, followed by a week of vacation in Virginia. It was good to finally be home. Our only responsibilities this weekend were serving at church and helping prepare for our first “Back to School” event – a “drive-in” movie (kids make cars out of cardboard and watch a movie in the car – yeah, you can steal that one!).

On Saturday morning, I had a small window of time to do work on the roof before the rain came…again (I live in the “Sunshine State” – which to me is more of an aspiration than reality in the summer here).

It was Lisa’s birthday weekend, so we went out to dinner to celebrate and went home to relax.

That’s when I heard the news…

“Twenty people were killed and dozens more injured on Saturday morning in a massacre at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart that was packed with back-to-school shoppers, making it one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.”*

It was discovered later that the shooter had written a personal manifesto. He later told investigators he wanted to shoot as many Mexicans as possible.

I never know what to think when I hear things like that.

“Why?”

“Who thinks like that?”

“Why would you want to shoot someone based on their country of origin?”

“Are people really that sick?”

I thought about all my friends from Mexico and Texas. I thought about my church and our sister congregation, Harvest in Español, and made a mental note to talk with the pastor, Ramon Garcia, to get his perspective. Being truly vulnerable, I was a little upset with myself that I was not more broken up by the news. Yet it has happened so often recently, it has begun to feel like a new normal – unacceptable, but normal.

Later Saturday evening I got the chance to watch a little of the NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremony. I turned on the set when Champ Bailey was talking. I had great respect for him as a player and I loved watching him play. My heart sank as I heard him give an impassioned plea:

“The first thing people see when they look at me is not a Pro Football Hall of Famer or a husband or a father. They view me first as a black man. So, on behalf of all the black men that I mentioned tonight, and many more out there who’ve had the same experiences that I’ve had in my lifetime, we say this to all of our white friends: When we tell you about our fears, please listen. When we tell you we’re afraid for our kids, please listen. When we tell you there are many challenges we face because of the color of our skin, please listen. And please don’t get caught up in how the message is delivered.”

I found myself tearing up as I heard him speak. I realize that while it is impossible for me to feel the fullness of the pain of his personal journey, but my hope is that I am becoming more aware and compassionate toward the challenges to people of color and minority cultures in our country. I was also grateful for the journey that God has our movement of churches on in this area. No doubt, we have a long way go…I have a long way to go…but we are willing to go on the journey.

Sunday morning, I woke up to the news: “In a second mass shooting in less than 14 hours, at least nine people are dead and more than two dozen were wounded early on Sunday after someone opened fire in downtown Dayton, Ohio.”*

Again? Two times in one weekend? What is going on?

I began to reflect in my mind… Columbine, Redlake, Virginia Tech, Foot Hood, Tucson, Aurora, Sandy Hook, D.C. Navy Yard, Charleston, San Bernardino, Pulse, Dallas, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Parkland, Tree of Life, Thousand Oaks… and now this. And, yeah, I know there are dozens more that aren’t top of mind and don’t even include the ones that came to mind from around the world.

I grieve over so many common ground issues in these scenarios. Deranged thinking. Devaluation because of color, class and culture. Senseless actions. Helpless victims. Tragic loss. Ripple effects for generations. Families and communities full of grief, pain and fear.

No doubt we will have outrage, posturing and blame-casting in the political arena. Hopefully we will have robust discussion that results in needed change and meaningful preventative action in the local arena. I ask you to pray that God will lead our leaders to live on the “solution side” of these issues and make godly, right judgments resulting in meaningful progress.

But you do realize that the only lasting hope for our world is the gospel of Jesus Christ, right?

When the gospel is planted in the life of a new believer, it is joined by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, the wisdom of the word of God and surrounded by the encouragement of God’s people. As more and more individuals are changed by the gospel, it transforms communities. As communities are transformed, it transforms regions. As regions are transformed, so are countries…and so on.

Transforming the country seems too big a task for any one of us to take on. But throughout the centuries God has been transforming the world…one life at a time. And he asks us to join him in this work.

In our country, the Back to School season is one of the most likely times for people to consider visiting a local church. Many are getting back into their life routine after a restful but less than routine summer schedule. Wouldn’t it be great if church became a part of their new routine?

We as believers recognize that the work of the church is absolutely essential in our world. Hope, help and healing come from Jesus – Jesus changes everything! He is the one who transform people. And the church (the people, not the programs) is God’s means to get the message of Jesus to those who so desperately need it. Every individual in our communities deserves to hear about and needs to experience the transforming power of the gospel.

I have four things that God has put on my heart to do with what happened this weekend. I’d love for you to join me in taking next steps in these areas:

  • Take a moment and pray for our country, our communities and our churches. Commit to keep them in prayer on a regular basis in prayer.
  • Think of a few people outside the faith and commit to invest in friendship to model the hope of Christ in their lives in hope that they would one day meet Jesus.
  • Invite someone who doesn’t have a church home to join you next weekend at your house of worship.
  • Take the next step to get deeply involved BOTH in the life of your community and your church. Serve with your time, talent and treasure in our local congregation. If possible, reach across a racial, ethnic or cultural divide in your community to listen, learn, lament and love.

I sense that these are the first steps we need to take to keep our hearts soft and our lives and churches on mission. I pray that this might be a very fruitful season of ministry in your personal circle of concern as well as your community. May we be prayerful in our hearts, joyful in our posture, winsome in our witness, engaging in our connections, hopeful with our words, bold in our invitations, God-honoring in our lives and effective in our mission to help people meet, know and follow Jesus as we start and strengthen churches together worldwide.

* News reports from ABC News

CONVERGE IS A MOVEMENT OF MORE THAN 1300 CHURCHES WORKING TO HELP PEOPLE MEET, KNOW AND FOLLOW JESUS. WE DO THIS BY STARTING AND STRENGTHENING CHURCHES TOGETHER WORLDWIDE.