Hearing the Music

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On Mission

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The Missions Festival is in full swing. It’s been a joy to see, hear and even taste of other cultures and countries. If you’re like me, exposure to these sorts of experiences and ideas leaves me asking a single question: Why? Why do we consider other cultures and countries? Why connect to them? Why spend our valuable time, and often money, on this sort of thing? Why do we keep doing this? Is it simply to know more, see more, to be more “well-rounded” Christians? I guess what I am asking and wondering is: is there more to these sorts of things than meets the eye (or the occasional taste bud)?

When we look to the Bible to answer this, we get a resounding, "yes". It may not surprise you that mission was at the heart of Jesus’ incarnation and ministry. To say Jesus was “on mission” seems a bit silly to say because it seems so...obvious. However, in an evangelical world that seems to tag “missional” onto just about everything, tagging it onto the life of Jesus is actually a correct fit. Consider what Jesus says early in his ministry: “but he said to them, 'I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose'" (Luke 4:43). Jesus names what he is doing as preaching, as taking “the good news” to different towns; that is his purpose. In other words, he is on mission. Also, consider Jesus’ parting words known as the Great Commission in Matthew 28 to his disciples. He is having them "go, make disciples… of all nations." His value of mission was passed on to his disciples. This certainly isn’t a new theme in the Bible either. God was fully aware of this dynamic when he was sending Israel into the Promised Land. The same can be said for the distinctives God was giving the Israelites in Leviticus about what it looked like to be YHWH followers.

So, let's attempt an answer to the many "whys" that were asked. We are on mission because Jesus takes mission seriously, and as Christ-followers we also take mission seriously. Highlighting the way Christ Church is on mission through the Missions Festival is more than tastes, words and experiencing other cultures, it’s being faithful to our call as Christ-followers in our current context. We are seeking to expose many others, in many other nations, to the saving power that is offered through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Illustration by Lillian Fuller

Posted by Addison Hawkins

Reaching the Heart of America

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What would Gospel Saturation look like in a region?  Here is one view “by the numbers”:  

  • One church for every 50,000 people would have “presence”.  
  • One church for very 5,000 people would mean “influence”.  
  • One church for every 500 people would achieve “saturation”.

This past week in St. Louis I had the opportunity to be part of a group of leaders from the Midwest praying and talking about gospel saturation in our region. Our region, as defined by our denomination, includes 13 states totaling over 71 million people. Applying current demographics to that number means that in our region over 60 million people are not significantly connected to a gospel-preaching church. In terms of our Midwest efforts, there is 1 PCA church for every 300,000 people, that number being over 6 times larger than the number needed for mere “presence”. (By comparison, in the PCA Northeast 1 church exists per 175,000, while in the PCA South there is 1 church per 74,000.)  While it is true that we don’t assume that the PCA is the only “gospel preaching” option available, the level of need for people to be connected to a gospel work is staggering.

Our theme for our time together was Philippians 1:27–28, "Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents." It was truly an encouragement to stand in one spirit with these sisters and brothers from our region, to pray for the faith of the gospel, and to strategize and imagine people drawing draughts of Living Water and finding the very thing that their souls are longing for. We recognize that though enemies and obstacles are real, we are not frightened because surely He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (I John 4:4).

So let us be earnest in prayer and energetic in work here in our little corner of the Midwest, Grand Rapids. We have such a great gift to offer in the face of such great need. You are so generous already with your time, your talents, your finances, your struggles and pain. May the Holy Spirit increase our ability to steward all things well. And, may we not be frightened by our enemies for we do know that our God does all things well. My prayer is that this Sunday we will be encouraged as we encounter with Asaph in Psalm 73 the overwhelming sufficiency and power of a life with God.  


Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

Steppin' Out

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I titled this week’s update “Steppin’ Out” for a couple of reasons. First, this week in our journey through Exodus, Moses finally steps out into the presence of Pharaoh. We will be exploring Exodus 5-7:7and observing the dynamic moving of both God and our own hearts as seek to we bring God into presence of the nations.

The second reason I entitled this “Steppin’ Out” is that I wanted to share with you a testimony of how God is working in the hearts of our brother and sister, Mark and Joy Jurries, with regards to the journey God is calling them along. Here are Mark’s words:

This summer we have been diving into the book of Exodus, and in so doing we have been confronted with many callings. The calling of the Hebrew midwives to be faithful to God and preserve life. The calling of Moses’ parents to seek to save his life. The calling of Moses to lead the children of God out of Egypt, with its many twists and turns over 80 years. We have been challenged from the pulpit to apply this story to our story being lived out day to day in 2019.

As Moses was confronted with a renewed call from God later in his life, over the last few months, Joy and I have been wrestling with what seems to us a clear call of God to lend our support to the new PCA church plant being organized in Hudsonville under the leadership of Jeremy Visser, We have had conversations with many, and many have been praying for us as we have considered this new direction. Thus we have felt very confirmed in this decision and have much peace that this is the Lord’s will for us at this time.

This move is only a possibility because of the spiritual growth and formation that we have experienced during our years at Christ Church. We have been so blessed by the sound preaching from the pulpit each week. The fellowship of the saints, as we have loved and been loved, has been so precious to our family, and frankly what makes this transition difficult to anticipate. Years ago we learned From Pastor Walter what was for us a new concept– the ministry of presence. The presence of so many both very familiar faces, and some not so familiar, does indeed minister each week as we gather to worship.

It has been, and continues to be a tremendous blessing to be called to serve as an elder here at Christ Church. I am very aware of the truth Paul writes about in 2 Corinthians 4, that we are jars of clay, cracked pots. It is a humbling thing to realize that somehow God uses my weak and feeble efforts to minister to others. The Christ Church session has been gracious and will be sending me as an “elder on loan” to this work, so I remain an elder under the authority of the session here, and am still available to help on occasion at Christ Church, though the focus of my labors soon will be with the new church plant

We are excited to see the growth of the PCA in greater West Michigan, presently in Ottawa county, but hopefully in the not too distant future reaching every population area in our region. We no longer live in the day when we can look at Jenison or Cutlerville and assume the majority of those residents are Christians. The suburbs and rural areas need the gospel just as much as the big cities do.

Please pray for Joy and me as we make this transition. This is somewhat easy to talk about in theory, but the practical reality of anticipating not worshiping regularly with so many that we have come to love dearly is difficult. Grace, Betsy, and Harrison will be staying at Christ Church, so that will give us more incentive to stop in from time to time. Pray that we will be used to help this new group grow into a Christ-centered church, where the love of Jesus, love of fellow saints, and love for the lost would be evident.

Mark Jurries (and Joy)

What an encouraging testimony of faithfulness, growth and a willingness to step out into a call that comes with sacrifice and uncertainty. Obviously, not having Mark and Joy in the regular life of our body will be a loss, but the gain of the Kingdom is greater by far. So let us pray for and encourage our friends as they take this step of faith.

And in the end, may we too draw encouragement and strength from the testimony of our friends, even as we rest on the promises of YHWH to be with us. May we all “step out” into the journey that God has for us.

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash