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Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
Outreach North America
churches reaching the community
From the Director
What is Your Circle?
Dr. Alan J. Avera, Executive Director
Connecting with Muslims
The Hispanic vote was a leading news item in the last election. The 2010 census tells us that the ethnic makeup of the U.S. is changing. How will this impact the ARP Church of the future? ONA longs to see the outreach and evangelism ministry of our local churches effectively reach the immediate ethnicities within the communities where the church is located. This is quite different from the homogeneous unit principle that was such a controversial aspect of the church growth movement. This vision is a geographic unit principle. Some churches are expressing the geographic principle this way: what is your circle of accountability? A circle of accountability is the geographic area around your church worship location where you are willing to be accountable for seeing that every man, woman, and child within that defined area has repeated opportunities to hear and respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ. While a circle of accountability may be an actual circle defined by a certain radius around your church, it does not have to be a circle. It may be a square or a rectangle defined by major roads, it may be a zip code, or a school zone. The key is that you define an area, and then hold yourself accountable before God to make sure that the free offer of the gospel is heard repeatedly by everyone within that area, regardless of their ethnicity or socio-economic background. If you define this area well, it will give your ministry focus. It will help you decide how best to allocate your limited outreach resources of time, talent, and finances. We suggest learning all you can about the people in your circle of accountability. There are free online demographic tools such as: • projects.nytimes.com/census/2010/explorer
• zipskinny.com • The Church of the Nazarene provides very helpful online demographics for most U.S. communities: map.nazarene.org
Seven ARP men remove their shoes as they enter the mosque. It is a week before the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslims’ month of fasting, and the ARPs are here to talk about that– fasting, but from a Christian perspective. So how is it that a group of Christians are invited to a local Muslim mosque to talk about biblical fasting? The simple answer: prayer. Two years ago, an elder at First ARP Church, Gastonia, wrote to me saying, “We continue to pray for the salvation of Muslims and continue to pray as to where God would lead us... Keep us in mind for outreaches to Muslims. See you next Wednesday.” Most Wednesday evenings since then I have been privileged to join this small group of praying people in Gastonia, who are faithfully called together each week by the elder at First ARP. He is one of a number of First Gastonia members who have traveled to the Detroit area with other ARPs each summer to connect local ministry and evangelistic outreach with some of the thousands of Muslims that have settled in places like Dearborn and Hamtramck. Those visits to Michigan have translated into faithful prayer and action in Gastonia and Charlotte. In the last year the prayer group has hosted three “Meetings for Better Understanding” with local Muslim men. They met twice at the pastor’s home, and once at the local mosque, to hear a church leader or ARPConnect staff, and a visiting Muslim Imam from Charlotte, tackle important topics like fasting, salvation, and the foundations of Christianity and Islam. One year ago, the group began asking God to raise up Continued on page 4
While demographic data can help you better understand the make-up of the area, nothing beats getting out in the community and meeting people. Build relationships, and pray for opportunities. Providentially, we believe the Lord has a reason for where your church is located. Are you reaching the people around you? †
Churches Reaching Their Communities
Serving the Savior in Hendersonville
Reformation ARP, Hendersonville, NC Rev. Matt Lucas
The gospel not only turns us heavenward, but also turns us outward to the world around us – a world that is lost and without hope.
A congregation energized to witness to Christ by word and deed is one clear way to recognize a church that has been transformed by the grace of God. The gospel not only turns us heavenward, but also turns us outward to the world around us – a world that is lost and without hope. At Reformation Presbyterian Church, we are becoming that kind of church as God changes us from the inside out. As God has stirred our hearts toward love and good deeds, a new effort to reach the community for Christ has been born.
local ministries that provide basic needs for the poor and needy. Each morning church members gather in the fellowship hall of the church to plan for the day, report on the previous day’s work (especially the impact on everyone involved), and pray. The most important part of all that we do is interact with the people we serve. They are so thankful, and we are so blessed.
ate intense anxiety. Some students are confronting previously hidden patterns of parental sin and dysfunction. The primary way we serve our students is by emphasizing the comprehensive relevance of the gospel to all of life, particularly as we gather for worship to confess sins, hear God’s Word preached, and to celebrate the Lord’s Supper weekly. We encourage students that the struggle with sin continues throughout the Christian life on earth. Our continued failure repeatedly turns us back to Christ and His perfect obedience in our place. When crushed by moral or academic failure, the gospel frees us from finding identity in our performance. Because even our righteousness is tainted, we are also freed to confess our attempts to manipulate God with our good behavior and enabled to forgive others for their sins against us. Our students participate in our church family in many ways. Worship would not happen without numerous student volunteers each Sunday to help with setup, music, sound, bulletin folding, and childcare. Through opportunities to serve, students know they are not just welcome visitors, but an integral part of our church. Occasional fellowship meals give students an opportunity to get off of campus to enjoy Sunday lunch with a church family. Preaching openly about taboo topics (pornography, same-sex attraction, and sexual abuse) has generated many one-on-one counseling opportunities. We are committed to remaining within walking distance of the campus, and make rides available to church events in homes during the week. Our large college student population has also generated other ministry opportunities. Local high school students have been impacted with the gospel through witnessing many near-peers that take faith in Christ seriously. The story of Christ ARP is a testament to God’s initiating work through the gospel, and it is a pleasure to serve each week alongside our many student volunteers as we all seek together the answers to our sin and suffering in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. †
The most recent In-Town Mission week was called Serving the Savior. The centerpiece was a musical concert, during which our own musicians performed a variety of music. Members invited neighbors and friends to enjoy the free concert and a reception to follow. Our desire was to share the love of Christ with people we invited and watch God work. These efforts of outreach are just a start. But, God is changing us through them! Hopefully He is forming in us the heart of our Savior, who came to seek and save what is lost. †
Christ Presbyterian Church, Grove City, PA
Rev. Matt Harmon
Over the past year, RPC has organized three In-Town Mission weeks. The goal has been to get 100% participation by the congregation (youth to elderly) through a variety of opportunities. Those who are physically unable to work commit to pray for God’s blessing on the week (a most essential job!). Others visit home-bound members of the church or people in the community. Workers go out to rake leaves, clean windows, or attend to needed repairs. Last spring, several men built a picnic shelter at a local women’s shelter. Volunteers go to
stocking shelves at a local food pantry
In our town of 10,000, Grove City College’s 2,500 students represent a large portion of our community. Though there are many ministry options on and near campus, the birth of Christ ARP was driven in large part by significant student interest and need. While many students arrive from strong and stable Christian families, not all do. Many come from churches that focus on morality and obedience rather than God’s redemptive rescue in Jesus. Others struggle with guilt and shame as they misuse their much greater freedom to indulge sin that shocks and embarrasses them. The academic rigors of college often gener-
creation is present, known, and experienced, and from which men and women will go into every sphere of public life to claim it for Christ, to unmask the illusions which have remained hidden and to expose all areas of life to the illumination of the gospel and the power of Jesus Christ. Kristi: One of our priorities is that when someone visits our church with a friend, they will find that they recognize several City Church people because they have met them through the course of that friendship. Duff: So we are a group of earnest believers living together in a city full of hardened skeptics, seeking to love God, love people, and love this city by living faithful lives to God where we live, work, learn, and play. This is our vision. This is our heart. This is our witness. Kristi: It is sometimes tempting to imagine the greener grass of a city where people respond well to big events, or want their kids in Sunday School; where the return on investment seems to come quickly. But Asheville is not like that. So we settle in, and pray that He continues to grow our love for Him, for these people, and for this beautiful, broken city we call home. † old, a part time student, unemployed or under employed, and about 50% are African American. This is a more gloriously diverse congregation than I expected. How did these people come to our church? We spent money on a lot of different marketing techniques, but we must have done them poorly because none of them, except the website, worked. The cheapest marketing strategy we have found is also the only one that works for us: friends inviting friends to church.
City Church of Asheville, Asheville, NC Rev. Duff & Kristi James
friends inviting friends to church
Kristi: Many have heard us say this before, but when we started telling people that we were moving to Asheville, a common response was, “Oh! Asheville is so weird. You guys will be perfect there.” Duff: What is the best way to reach the people of this unique city? In general, they value the eclectic and the ironic, the abnormal and the non-traditional. And we have found that the more we come to know this city, the more we love her. Kristi: Recently I was driving downtown, telling myself that Asheville is actually pretty normal, when a group of 30 people in Santa suits crossed in front of my car, laughing and skipping. Duff: I do not have any secret formulas or special sauce for how to reach Ashevillians. We have used avenues of ministry like working at a homeless shelter together, adopting a family for Christmas, holding a Bible study in the local community center, showing gospel hospitality by inviting friends and neighbors into our homes for a meal, and inviting our friends to our worship time. Kristi: As a church, we talk often about being in and among the city, and living integrated lives, rather than having a compartment for work, one for church, one for school, etc. We are intentional about hospitality; opening our homes to share meals and investing time in relationships. Duff: It all begins with the local congregation in which the reality of the new
Where did the original “friends” come from? The community. We had to get out, make connections, and then get to know them, their spouse, their family, their neighbors, and their friends. We went to community Bible studies, events, shopping areas, and college campuses. We go where people are, and start where they are. They may have never seriously thought about worship, but may be interested in going fishing. This is a painfully slow yet spiritually rich process called relational evangelism. Because of time/financial constraints, it can be hard for a parachute drop church (like SonLife), but God is blessing our efforts. It forces us to completely trust in God to do the work, and supply our needs. I suppose all the methods of evangelism strive for this, but human manipulation, real or imagined, will be sniffed out in a heartbeat. For SonLife, friends have been our best bait, our website has been our best hook, and worship, has been our best net.
God’s “Saddleback Sam”
SonLife Church, Jacksonville, FL Rev. Bob Hovey
Arriving on the church planting field four years ago, I had my proposal in hand and my Saddleback Sam (shorthand for a profile of the typical person your church is trying to reach). He was white middle aged with kids. . . a lot like me. However, I knew in my heart of hearts, I would love and care for anyone God sent my way, and that they may be very, and wonderfully different. Today, the average person in our congregation of about forty people is 23 years-
You can check out our website, www. sonlifejax.com, and see what a first time inquisitor sees. Statistics show that 70% of new visitors will have already been on your website before they visit. I believe it. Worship is a reflection of not only the pastor, but also of the congregation. We preach the same Reformed gospel as traditional ARPs, but wrapped in a very different package. I can honestly say the congregation is nothing like I expected. It is so much better, praise God! †
Continued from page 1
. . . Connecting with Muslims News and Notes from the Field
Church Planters and family retreat: Fifty-six people gathered at Bonclarken January 8-11 for the annual retreat. This was a time of rejuvenation for our church planting families, as well as support and education. Dr. Curt Young from Presbyterian Church of the Atonement in Silver Spring, MD was our trainer. Curt spoke on Leadership as Discipleship. Sherry Bartlett and Sally Illman from ARP Womens Ministries provided special ministry to the wives. New Meeting Location: Grace Presbyterian in Pontiac, SC (northeast of Columbia) now meets at Lonnie B. Nelson Elementary School, 225 N. Brickyard Rd, Columbia, SC 29223. Worship at 10:00 a.m. Valerie Shepard’s book: Pilipinto’s Happiness: The Jungle Childhood of Valerie Elliot was published in October. Valerie Elliot Shepard is the only child of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. Her husband, Walt Shepard, is mission developer for Christ Coastal ARP Church in Southport, NC. Communion Presbyterian in Irvine, CA: This mission congregation held its last worship service on December 23, and has merged with the Jubilee Korean American Presbyterian Church. Outreach Newsletter for your church! Contact the ONA office if you would like this newsletter to be sent in bulk to your church.
Christians to befriend Saudi Arabian students studying English at a school in Charlotte. At Easter, the prayer group learned that a young man attending their church is a teacher at that very school. Three of his students, from Saudi Arabia, had asked to visit his church. Since that visit, men in the prayer group have been invited to speak in classes at the school! While we pray, God is at work choosing members of the congregation to be His point of contact, His connection with some of the thousands of Muslims that He has brought to live among us to meet Jesus. I suspect He is doing the same in your congregation. I am always surprised to discover that somewhere between 10-20% of us in each congregation are in some sort of face-to-face conversational contact with Muslims. God is at work. Are you praying? Are you cooperating? †
1 Cleveland St., Ste. 110 Greenville, SC 29601-3696
General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
Outreach North America
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