Early in our ministry together, Becky and I hosted open houses every year around Christmastime in Winona, Minnesota. We would decorate the house and Becky spent hours baking. We sent invitations to all our neighbors, and many would come in and out, bringing their kids along. We would learn a lot about our neighbors’ lives and made connections that lasted a long time. They would tell us all kinds of stories, and what I was reminded during those open houses was that when you open your house to people, people often will open up their lives to you.
What might seem like a simple act of hospitality, God can use for His purposes. The generous sharing of yourself and your home could become the gift that someone needs this Christmas. As the body of Christ, we are bearers of the good news of Christ Jesus, energized by the Great Commission and eager to share the gospel with the lost in a broken world. I’m reminded of 2 Corinthians 9, a chapter where Paul encourages the Corinthians to live generously in the surpassing grace God has given them. Then, in verse fifteen, it’s as if Paul is excited and says:
“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”
As we spend time with the ones we love, let’s keep Jesus at the forefront of our hearts and minds, and share His gift of salvation, grace and peace.
As the body of Christ, we are bearers of the good news of Christ Jesus, energized by the Great Commission and eager to share the gospel with the lost in a broken world.
Reflecting on the year
When I look back over the year, I see a common theme: the people of God reconnecting to move the mission of God forward.
As I visited churches and met with leaders in the movement, I saw the people of God excited to gather in-person again. I sensed a renewed missional vibrancy, an eagerness to be on mission together. Despite the variety of obstacles in their way, the local church continues to overcome them together with a dependence on Jesus’ authority, empowerment and presence and their eyes fixed on His kingdom and His gospel. From rural roads to urban blocks, the local church’s resiliency and focus on the Great Commission is the heartbeat of our movement. I praise God for their faithful work.
At the national level, Theology Conference was a key moment when pastors, missionaries and ministry leaders gathered at an in-person, national EFCA event for the first time in two years. Theology Conference unpacked a significant and relevant topic, exploring how the body of Christ can live as exiles in this world, that our citizenship is in heaven and we’re on mission together. That speaks profoundly to a time of unrest, polarization and distraction.
Another powerful way God brought us together was at Challenge conference, the national student ministry conference of the EFCA. In July, Challenge hosted over 3,000 students across the country in Kansas City, Missouri to worship God and dig deep into the Word to strengthen their faith. Becky and I had the pleasure of attending the conference this year and were excited to see how God was working in the lives of students.
Despite the variety of obstacles in their way, the local church continues to overcome them together with a dependence on Jesus’ authority, empowerment and presence and their eyes fixed on His kingdom and His gospel.
Finally, last month several EFCA leaders and I had the honor of celebrating 100 years of ministry in the Ubangi region of Congo. Before the mission was established, the early Free Church sent Titus Johnson to determine a mission field for them to serve in central Africa. As he surveyed the region, he felt called by God to serve the people of the Ubangi. What started as a small seed blossomed into over fourteen hundred Free churches and several fruitful ministries, like Tandala Hospital, Elikya Center, Promise Home and the Tabitha Centers, in Congo.
As I stood side-by-side with over 6,000 believers in Congo, celebrating this significant occasion, I felt moved by their excitement of what God had done. Though I didn’t speak the language, I knew the heart of the people as they sang praises to God. During the celebration, the leaders challenged the people to send missionaries beyond Congo.
This is what the EFCA is all about: multiplying disciples and disciplemakers; planting, strengthening and revitalizing churches; and extending gospel ministries. One man planted the seeds that grew into a flourishing mission field and today, the Free Church in Congo (CECU) is casting a vision to send more disciplemakers into the harvest.
In the days and years ahead, the EFCA will continue to partner with CECU. I encourage you to learn more and join the Congo Consortium to support disciplemaking, leadership development and church planting in Congo. And please take a moment to watch the following video and consider how God is calling you to use your gifts for His mission:
This is what the EFCA is all about: multiplying disciples and disciplemakers; planting, strengthening and revitalizing churches; and extending gospel ministries.
If you take time to reflect on the current moment, you’ll get a sense of the size and significance of the issues facing ministry today and the great gospel opportunity they present. The world remains polarized; it’s still a dark, broken place. And amid all of that, we’re seeing people categorize and marginalize others rather than seeing them as wonderful individuals who are made in the image of God, people whom God loves. If we’re not careful, we can easily become distracted and pulled away from the mission God has given us.
I’m reminded of an old farm analogy my father used to say: “If you’re not careful, you just get wrapped around the axle.” As the people of God, we must continue to share the compassionate heart of God with lost people and love them enough to share the gospel with them. I encourage all of us to continue to live on mission.
In the early days of the Free Church mission in Congo, life was hard for missionaries. They were often rejected and persecuted for sharing the gospel. Though the early days were difficult, there was a real sense of urgency. If they wouldn’t go and share the gospel, who would? I’m thankful that the people of the early Free Church avoided distraction and encouraged each other to stay the course.
With the same sense of urgency and focus on mission, the EFCA will continue to raise up, equip and train new leaders before sending them into the harvest. As our movement looks ahead, I’m seeing more pastors and leaders ask, “How are we intentionally making disciples and disciplemakers for God’s kingdom?” I’ve seen many local churches answer this question by taking bold steps to create discipleship programs and internships. I encourage more pastors and local churches to ask God how He is calling them to multiply disciples and disciplemakers in their context.
The world is in a season of unrest, but no matter the circumstances, God’s kingdom and mission will not be thwarted. We have nothing to fear because we serve the triumphant, risen King.
At the district and national level, we’ve also seen God provide opportunities for equipping and training. Equipping opportunities have unfolded in ministries like ReachNetwork, the EFCA’s church planting movement for church planters; Global Equipping, EFCA ReachGlobal’s equipping resource for missionaries and national leaders; EFCA GATEWAY, a Bible and theology training program for leaders; Prepared, an affordable, online theological training program for female leaders; Trinity International University and many more, and they’re paving new pathways for ministry effectiveness and gospel flourishing. In the next year, I’m excited to see how all EFCA ministries move the mission forward.
The world is in a season of unrest, but no matter the circumstances, God’s kingdom and mission will not be thwarted. We have nothing to fear because we serve the triumphant, risen King. For centuries, Jesus’ Church has thrived in the face of difficult times because God has been at work, and I’m eager to see how He will continue to work in and through national and international ministries of the EFCA.
This Christmas and in the new year, I encourage you to consider the concept of Immanuel, God with us. Jesus took on flesh to save people from their sins and make His dwelling among us. This was His incarnational work and before He returned to the Father, He commanded His disciples to engage those around them and make more disciples among all people. Whether it's engaging our neighbors across the street or going halfway around the world, we’re called to incarnational ministry—to live out the message of the gospel in Word and deed among all people.
My prayer for today, for Christmas and for the new year is that we turn our eyes toward God in the highest heaven. That our hearts and the hearts of those around us would be at peace as we look to Him. And as we rest, let’s live out an incarnational ministry by opening our homes and lives with love and compassion, sharing His indescribable gift.
As you consider year-end giving, would you keep the EFCA in mind and help us further our mission to glorify God by multiplying transformational churches among all people? Thank you for contributing to the ministry of the EFCA. To give, visit efca.org/give.
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