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    Elders' Blog - Entries from July 2015

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    ThuThursdayJulJuly23rd2015 The Future Is Bright
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged Church Vision 0 comments Add comment

    We’ve had an eventful last couple weeks at Kossuth! First, we introduced a new ministry model to guide our church during this next season of ministry: Gather, Grow, Scatter. If this is the first time you’re seeing those three words next to each other, then be sure to check out the sermon I preached on July 12 or the Elder Blog post Abraham wrote last week. Both of those are important resources to introduce you to this exciting new way of thinking about how (and why) we do what we do as a church. 

    With that foundation set in place, this past Sunday during the Connection hour we were able to take the next step and introduce the four-tiered strategy that we have established that will allow us to address each of the three components of this new ministry model. We don’t just want to talk about gathering, growing, and scattering. We want to actually do them! That’s why we have set our sights on immediate, mid-range, long-term, and ongoing areas of focus. By God’s grace, we think these will help us gather, grow, and scatter well.

    Yet any time we’re planning for the future, there’s always an element of fear and uncertainty. What will happen? Will our plans prove successful? Or will they fizzle out in a pool of disappointment? While it can be tempting at a time like this to hedge our bets or temper our expectations, let me share just a few of the reasons why I’m optimistic about what’s in store. I think our future is bright, and here’s why:

    We’re building on a strong foundation. The fine print in financial services literature always says, “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.” That’s a necessary disclaimer in just about every area of life. But it doesn’t mean that the past is irrelevant. While the past doesn’t guarantee the future, it’s still a pretty good clue. Kossuth has a long and exceptional history of kingdom influence, and while this doesn’t promise anything, it certainly gives me reason to be encouraged. So much great work has already been done, and so many great things have already been accomplished. I think our past sets us up well for continued faithfulness and fruitfulness. It’s so much easier to move forward when you already have momentum!

    We’re surrounded by people who love Jesus and his gospel. It seems like every week I see new ways that our church is evidencing its faith in Jesus Christ and its love for all the saints (Col. 1:3-4). By no means is Kossuth a perfect church, because by no means are its members perfect people. On the contrary, we’re a bunch of royal messes! But by all accounts, this is a congregation that truly treasures Christ and is being transformed by his grace. Those of you who are sacrificing and suffering and fighting sin for the sake of Christ give me reason to look forward with eagerness. If we want to be a church full of people who passionately follow Jesus and join in his mission, it certainly won’t hurt that Kossuth has a whole army of people already doing that.

    We’re trusting a Savior who is building his church. Really, everything else pales in comparison to this: Jesus is at work in his church. And that includes Kossuth. Whenever I start to have doubts or entertain fears about the future, I remember that we can’t out-dream or out-plan Jesus. Even the loftiest goals we could put on paper are nothing compared to his cosmic designs to purify his church and lead her in victory over all of the enemies of the gospel. Ultimately, the future of Kossuth (and every local church) rests in the hands of the Master Builder against whom no hellish scheme can possibly prevail.

    I’ll take those odds any day.

    ThuThursdayJulJuly16th2015 Gather, Grow, Scatter
    byAbraham Cremeens Tagged Church Planning Vision 0 comments Add comment

    Gather. Grow. Scatter. What isn’t there to get excited about regarding those three words?

    What a long time coming. We have been talking about a strategic plan for so long (and rightly so…you don’t just throw together a major plan that will affect several years of ministry on a whim). God has been taking us on this incredible journey. And now that we are fully out from shore into this sea with a new horizon, it’s go time.

    But where do we start? Well, after plenty of coffee and numerous white boards filled to the edges, Drew and I (along with the rest of the elder team) offer these three words. These three words serve us in so many ways. They are a banner, something to wave and get behind as we march to new destinations. They are a process, a cyclical movement that is taking us somewhere, toward maturity in Christ. They are a guide that helps us know what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to.

    Drew did an outstanding job introducing the ideas behind “Gather, Grow, Scatter” to us last Sunday. And the Connection Hour of the next two Sundays will be used to share how these three words impact our church on a practical level. But please allow me the opportunity to highlight these three words one more time as we continue to roll out “Phase 2” of our strategic plan.

    Gather. From its inception, Christ’s church has assembled together in corporate worship to participate in those wonderful things God allows us to be involved in. Singing, hearing the Word preached, giving, and even the random hallway conversation: they all serve a role in our Christian community as the whole church family comes together in our special Sunday morning worship time. When we gather, not only do we give the due glory to God, but we are refreshed by his gospel and propelled toward obedience. (This Sunday we have the privilege of celebrating three baptisms. Anyone who doesn’t leave that gathering event refreshed doesn’t have a pulse.) We gather because that is what Christians do. Without it, the beauty of the church would be tainted.

    But that gathering always moves into something even deeper and no less essential. We grow together in deeper contexts that come with more intimate environments. For us, in this season, that primarily means engaging in Connection Groups and Care Groups. They serve as a ground for deepening in relationships as we search God’s Word and apply it to our lives. Discipleship doesn’t happen at a distance. It is meant to happen in the midst of loving, caring relationships (1 Thess. 2:8). If you are not a part of both of these avenues of discipleship, you are missing out. Join one right away and get your walk with God on an important track.

    But Christian growth always moves outward. No biblical church avoids impacting the least and the lost in the surrounding city and nations. We scatter to impact. We scatter to make a difference. We scatter to bring glory to God. We scatter because that is what the church does. And she is always good at it when she does it God’s way.

    We gather to grow. As we grow, we scatter. When we scatter, we gather again, bringing new found friends with us.

    This will drive the next season of Kossuth. I can’t wait to see the fruit of it. And I can’t wait to do it with you.

    WedWednesdayJulJuly8th2015 The Privilege of Hospitality
    byPaul Briggs Tagged Hospitality Love Service 0 comments Add comment

    Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Romans 12:13)

    In recent reading I have been doing, I continue to stumble across references to the responsibility of the believer in Jesus Christ to be hospitable. Consider this brief passage from a short, but important book contrasting entertaining and true hospitality:

    "Entertaining can be a source of pride and often causes stress whereas true hospitality seeks to minister to others and is offered with humility. If entertaining strangers takes too much of our time and energy, we will do it a lot less often. But if we can find ways to include these friends in our everyday activities, we will find hospitality much more attainable." (Paula Parker, Always Be Ready! Equipping the Church for Ministry to International Students, p. 11)

    This segment of a book about how the church comes together from different backgrounds (many nations, tribes, and languages!) points, in part, to hospitality. Jesus is our example!

    "We see the call for hospitality in the ministry of Jesus in how an itinerant, essentially homeless rabbi offers hospitality at the messianic banqueting table in feeding thousands….the Communion table is an act of hospitality offered by Jesus to all believers.... The church is called to live into this biblical and historical example of hospitality." (Soong-Chan Rah, Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church, p. 174)

    Coming across these references to hospitality in various places has encouraged my thinking about the topic. My hope for you is that you will be equally encouraged to practice intentional hospitality for the glory of Jesus, the master of hospitality. Consider these points:

    1. The command to be hospitable is just that, a command – a command from the one who extended hospitality to us, his people. Therefore, the command becomes a privilege to imitate the one who extended hospitality to us.
    2. The command to be hospitable has a firm foundation: the hospitality of the one who loved his people and gave himself for them!
    3. The command to be hospitable produces great results in eternity. It is an act of faith.
    4. The command to show hospitality often results in the reception of the greater blessing by the one offering the hospitality, rather than the one being hosted. The words of the Lord Jesus, quoted in Acts 20:35 come to mind here: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
    5. The command to show hospitality does not have to be extravagant; it can be very simple. Some of the best times enjoyed with others are around a cup of coffee, tea, or a simple dessert. The time spent sharing your life (who you are and what you value) with others is what hospitality is about.
    6. The command to show hospitality does not have to be carried out in the context of a home. While welcoming warmth can (and in some cases should) take place in the home, at the most basic level we welcome people into our lives. One place this should be abundantly evident is the gathering of God’s people, the church. The church foyer, therefore, should be a warm and welcoming place where God’s people go out of their way to draw others into their lives.

    As we prepare to enter a new ministry “season” at Kossuth, my prayer is that you will take to heart several of these observations about hospitality and move beyond your zone of comfort. Climb to new heights of obedience to your Lord and Savior and experience the blessing that intentional hospitality brings for the glory of his name. Whether it be serving as a mentor at Oakland School, befriending a new international student as part of the International Friendship Program, or temporarily hosting a newly arrived Chinese student, the opportunities before us as a church family in the coming months are abundant. Where will you intentionally involve yourself? 

    WedWednesdayJulJuly1st2015 Five Timely Affirmations

    Last Friday, the Supreme Court effectively made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. And while there have already been enough articles and blog posts written on the subject to fill an entire library, we believe as elders that it’s important to take a moment to address a question that you won’t find answered in even the best of them: “What does all of this mean for Kossuth Street Baptist Church?” We take this question seriously, and we’re working even now to explore the steps we need to take as a church to clarify our policies in such a way as to prepare for potential legal challenges. But more importantly, we want to let you know where our church stands by offering five affirmations that will help us navigate these tumultuous times. All five are vital aspects of our response as a local church.

    1. We affirm the sovereignty of God. As one friend and fellow church member put it in an email to me earlier this week, “God knew last Friday would come.” That may seem like an elementary statement, but it’s hugely important for us to understand. The Supreme Court doesn’t run the universe. God does. And because that is true, we need not succumb to fear or hopelessness. Whatever else we do, we must not lose sight of the Psalmist’s words: “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Ps. 115:3).

    2. We affirm our own sinfulness. Jesus instructs me to remove the log in my own eye before pointing out the speck in yours. So before we talk about the sexual sins of our culture, we must be committed to confessing and seeking grace for our own sins. Unfaithfulness, abuse, lust, divorce, apathy, lovelessness: we must repent of these sins that taint our own marriages. After all, there’s more than one way to denigrate the divine institution of marriage, and unfortunately we’re guilty of many of them.

    3. We affirm our LGBT neighbors as bearers of the image of God. Every man and woman—regardless of sexuality—has been uniquely formed and fashioned in the image of their Creator. This means that we owe all of our neighbors respect, dignity, and love. Although we will certainly find our beliefs at odds with many people around us, we refuse to let that serve as an excuse for hostility or lack of compassion. We are resolved to love, even in the face of differences.

    4. We affirm a biblical and countercultural view of marriage. As Christians, the pressure to conform our beliefs to the shifting norms of American culture can be overwhelming. But we refuse to go along with popular opinion just because it’s popular. Our understanding of marriage comes from the One who created it. This means that we are resolved to teach, preach, and live out an ideal for marriage that the world will increasingly find strange and revolutionary: one man, one woman, in holy covenant before God.

    5. We affirm an unchanged gospel and an unchanged mission. No Supreme Court decision can nullify the fact that Jesus died to save sinners. And no Supreme Court decision can prevent the church of Jesus Christ from declaring that message with boldness and love in our neighborhoods and among the nations. Our task is no different than it was before. We need not tuck our tails and run. The church will continue to wake up every morning and make disciples until Jesus comes back.

    Have no doubt about it: there will be difficult days ahead. But by God’s grace, we will continue to affirm these five crucial realities as we serve and minister in an increasingly complex world. We are as excited as ever to be pastors. And we are as excited as ever to see what God will do in and through Kossuth Street Baptist Church. We are grateful to be ministering alongside you.

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