Congratulations to Jonathan Kleis!

Jonathan, who along with his wonderful wife Noella and their children serve as our missionaries in Italy, just completed his ordination council here at Grace.  He was unanimously affirmed and recommended by the council to the Deacons and church for ordination.  All the council members spoke highly of both his presentation and his demeanor.  He showed great skill in answering questions from the Scriptures, and we rejoice in this step in his continued service to the Lord and the church.

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Published in: on October 16, 2008 at 2:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Losing Faith?

In the newest issue of Mission Frontiers, Dr. Ralph Winter cites an alarming statistic in the first of a number of articles on losing one’s faith. He writes, “Nowhere, in fact, is this catastrophe more obvious than in the United States. Here, estimates are that 75% of teenagers in Evangelical homes will lose their faith after high school. One denominational study says 85%.”

I cannot find the documentation for these statistics, but Dr. Winter is not one given to making up statistics out of thin air. If even close, this should give all of us in evangelical, Bible believing and teaching churches something to think about. Later, he mentions a number of currently prominent debunkers of faith who were once considered one of us. He includes:
Hector Avalos, former Pentecostal minister, now Professor of religious studies at Iowa and an avowed secular humanist, and author of The End of Biblical Studies.
Bart Ehrman, Moody and Wheaton grad, whose latest book is God’s Problem, How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer.
John Marks, former Young Life staffer, author of Reasons to Believe, a book that concluded there were none.

A succeeding article by Dr. Ruth Tucker reflects on the factors that led former missionaries and pastors to give up their faith, and it makes for depressing reading indeed. One take away from the article: you cannot argue someone back to faith any more than you could argue them into faith originally. Any “restoration” takes the Holy Spirit’s prompting.

Is this new news? In fact, it is not. Ever since John wrote his first epistle, there have been those “who went out from us” but were not really part of us, even though they looked and talked the part.

But what is it that causes the majority of evangelical young people in the U.S. to abandon their faith after high school, with only a minority seeming to return after wandering in the world’s “wilderness” for a number of years? Theologically we can go back and forth about election. We might wonder if families have failed to “train up a child in the way he should go,” but then again some of the wanderers have brothers and sisters who don’t stray.  The children in our Awana programs, Sunday schools, and youth groups rarely leave them saying that they are not “saved,” yet nationally three out of four will not be following Jesus a few years past high school.

What might we do?  For starters, remember the parable of the seed and soils that we studied in Mark 4.  If we learn anything there, it is that salvation is a process that has a definite beginning, yet only can be seen to be taking place as fruit appears.  Perhaps if we were less insistent that our children were saved, we would be more careful to encourage them to continue to seek Christ, to look at their lives, and even examine themselves to see if they are in the faith as they grow older. 

We might also remember that Proverbs 22:6 (“Train up a child in the way he should go…”) is a proverb that describes reality, but not a guarantee in all cases.  Our best efforts as believing parents do not assure us that our children will trust the Lord.

Third, we might be much more intentional about training our children and young people in the Scriptures at a deeper level, wrestling with questions like the existence of evil sometime before a crisis or tragedy occurs.  Teaching freshmen at Cedarville University, I must say that I am appalled at the lack of general Bible knowledge of many of my students who come from Christian homes and evangelical churches.  Worse, they not only lack Bible facts, they have no theology–a coherent system of biblical thought that helps them know how to think about questions that come to them. 

Published in: on May 28, 2008 at 12:19 pm  Comments (1)  
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Pray for Elisha

Elisha BlairMany of you know that Elisha Blair, youngest son of missionaries Brian and Laurie Blair, had major surgery to repair an aneurysm in his aorta last month.  That surgery was successful, but the graft of the repair section to the pulmonary artery is leaking and requires very difficult surgery, and the doctors do not give a high probability of success. This link goes to his website if you would like more details.

Surgery is scheduled for today in Seattle. Please be in prayer for him, and for his family–Laurie is with him, while Brian is with the other four children in their home in Nenana, Alaska, where they serve Voice for Christ radio ministries to the interior of Alaska.

UPDATE:  as of 9:40 p.m., Elisha is out of surgery, the surgeon believes that he made the repair needed to the coronary artery’s graft to the dacron replacement section, and the family is cautiously optimistic, and thankful to God for this result and for all the prayers.

Published in: on December 6, 2007 at 9:49 am  Leave a Comment  

Reaching other nations without traveling…

I have a good friend named Dennis Baker who is always sending me good stuff to think about.  Here is his latest resource for me, that I now give to you…

Craig,

Here’s a little excerpt from friend, Jay Bell’s newsletter…  He is Grace Brethren

 Recently we conducted our workshop (on reaching other cultures in America) in the Richmond, VA. Grace Brethren Church. The chairman of their Mission Commission is a police captain named Hal Moser. On the Monday after the workshop Hal routinely stopped by his favorite up-scale grocery story to get a cup of his favorite up-scale coffee. But this time he walked into the store with a different set of lenses. For the first time he saw an Asian working behind the sushi counter. Hal thought, “I wonder if the material Jay & Jan shared really works?” He decided to give it a try. He walked up to the sushi-maker, said good morning and asked the gentleman his name and where he was from. Hal learned his name was Win, and that he was from Burma and that he’s been in the U.S. for three years. Hal proceeded to ask Win if anyone had welcomed him to America. Win looked at him with a quizzical look on his face and said, “No! Not at all. No one.” Hal then reached his hand over the counter to shake Win’s hand and said, “Then that gives me the privilege to be the first to welcome you to the United States. Welcome Win.” And then Hal hurried off to work.
The next day Hal stopped to see Win and to get his coffee. Upon seeing Hal, Win walked around the sushi counter taking off his protective gloves. He grasped both of Hal’s hands and asked him to come to his home for dinner. Now that must have been quite a scene. Hal is about 6-2 and Win is short. Hal was in his uniform with captain bars on his collars and Win was in his apron.
The following week Hal and Shelly went to Win’s home. Over dinner Hal asked Win how many friends he has made in his three years in America. Win responded, “You are my best friend.”
Hal and Shelly are now off-and-running in a cross-cultural ministry with a Buddhist family from an unreached people group (Burmese) that is listed on the Joshua Project website as 0.07% Christian.
Reaching the unreached right at home. No plane fare necessary, no U.S. passport necessary, no inoculation shots necessary.
And this is just one story among a ton of others!
 

Blessings on you as you “cross the street” this week!

Published in: on December 4, 2007 at 2:22 pm  Comments (2)  

Dan Lacey is with the Lord and now cancer free!

Dan Lacey, longtime missionary to France from our church, went home to be with the Lord today, after a very long, slow battle with cancer.  While the disease finally claimed his body, Dan won the battle.  He continued to minister right up to the end, and when the doctors told the family to come, they were able to be there as he passed into the Savior’s presence.

 Dan was a church planter, and the love he and Betty had for the people of France was so strong that not only did they decide to stay there through Dan’s illness, but some of their children have stayed, too.  He leaves behind a church family as well, and other churches whose leaders he has mentored and whose very life has been shaped by the ministry the Laceys have had.

Our prayers are with Betty and the children, knowing that they have a great sense of loss to adjust to.  But we must rejoice with Dan, who is enjoying the first moments of a forever that will be cancer and pain free.

Published in: on November 7, 2007 at 4:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Why We Aren’t Supporting Mission Agencies

A number of concerned supporters of missions just noticed that beginning with this year’s budget we changed our support structure–specifically moving monies from home office general funds to either the “new support” line or missionaries supported by those agencies.  We announced this last year, and the new budget was designed this way, but for whatever reason it apparently was not understood by all.  The question, of course, is “why?”

The short answer is one of priorities.  Missionary support is a higher priority for us than agency support.  We do give to a number of agencies whose work is as an agency (Shepherds, Baptist Childrens Home, etc.).  Limited resources force us to make uncomfortable decisions.  Current missionaries are still undersupported and our ability to take on new missionaries is very limited, even though new ones are on the horizon.  Home offices of all missionaries we support require their personnel to raise a percentage of support to be given to the home office, so some of our missionary support does go to them.  We also have responded to home office special needs during this year. 

This, however, is not something we are happy about.  We had to decide where to free up money that could go to new missionaries who were doing work in line with our newly minted strategy, and could help missionaries facing significant deficits.

This temporary situation will continue until we are able to increase our missions budget to the 20% of budget that was targeted many years ago as the ideal for our church.  We also will not automatically restore all agencies, but will choose to support those that are in line with our vision and committed to true partnership with local churches in sending missionaries.  Some agencies say they are committed to partnership, but in their practices they exclude local churches from any significant role in making decisions.  Just as we evaluate missionaries and fields, we will evaluate agencies.

So, please be patient, and know that generous giving makes a difference in lots of ways, including how much becomes available for missions and missions agencies.

Published in: on October 31, 2007 at 5:17 pm  Leave a Comment