Category: News

FCA News, Announcements, and Events

2018 FCA International Convergence*

*Convergence: “the converging and connecting of distinct identities, ethnicities and nations into a unified whole.”

Mark Your Calendars!

The 2018 Fellowship of Christian Assemblies International Convergence is coming May 1 to 4 to Manitoba, Winnipeg RadissonCanada, to be held at Winnipeg’s Radisson Hotel. Plan now to attend this international gathering, bringing together delegates from multiple nations for inspiration and challenge. A reminder to U.S. citizens: You will need a current U.S. passport to travel to Canada.

International Delegates Coming to the 2018 Convergence!

Delegates from FCA partners in South America and Africa are making plans to attend. Their participation will greatly enrich our time together as a truly international convergence of the nations! Many of these leaders from third world nations share the same DNA as the FCA churches in North America. They have vision for local churches to train, equip, and send workers, making disciples at home and abroad. It is a vision for transformation beginning in their own families, communities, and nations—and then spreading to other nations.

The international delegates are receiving letters of welcome from Winnipeg City Councilor, Scott Gillingham, and from the Hon. Scott Fielding, Minister of Families with the Manitoba Provincial Cabinet.

God Is Doing a New Thing!

The Spirit of God is rising up from within the nations, and many church leaders from third world countries have much to teach us about raising up leaders who will reproduce disciples for the next generation.

We also expect that the Winnipeg Convergence will witness the glory of the Lord arising from among the First Nations in Manitoba, right in the heart of the continent!

Winnipeg has the largest urban native population of any city in Canada, and we are blessed to have some 25 First Nations ministers licensed and ordained with the FCA in Manitoba alone—people of history and destiny, showcasing God’s kingdom authority to release grace, forgiveness and the joy of God’s presence to bring healing to our lands! The native Cree word, Manitoba, refers to the place where the Creator sits and from where he speaks! Many believe there is a prophetic mantle upon this province, flowing from the Father’s heart through the hearts of First Nation believers who have been healed of their deepest wounds.

“Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands! Serve the LORD with gladness, come before His presence with singing” (Psalm 100:1-3).

“Oh sing to the LORD a new song! Sing to the LORD all the earth. Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples” (Psalm 96:1-3).

Making disciples to make disciples from all nations is global vision—a grassroots movement within every nation. We are starting in the FCA to connect nation-to-nation with a growing, locally based vision!

This movement is growing out of the depths of people’s hearts, working its way upward and outward, demonstrating that God is indeed doing a “new thing.” He had the first word in creation; he will also have the last word in history!

Don’t miss the 2018 FCA International Convergence coming to Winnipeg this spring! Watch for registration information coming right after the New Year.

—News item submitted by Roger Armbruster, Sr.
Pastor of Maranatha (Niverville), Manitoba

 

FCA Connections in Africa

The U.S. FCA lead elder, John Sprecher and Beau Lee, a church planter in Manhattan, NY, recently returned from attending the Nigerian FCA conference.

Beau Lee, missionary from LifeChurch in New York City, teaches at the Nigerian FCA Conference.

“I believe this was a very significant trip—on many levels,” reports Sprecher. Two primary areas of significant impact were in the teaching ministry at the conference and in the developing relationships among the delegations from various African nations.

Sprecher and Lee spoke and taught at the convention. Lee taught the concept of “tent-making”—working for pay in the community while serving in ministry at no charge. The fact that Lee is “tent-making” himself in New York City added to his credibility. He was touched by the similarities between Nigeria and Haiti, having previously spent seven months there seeing poverty firsthand. Besides helping pastors, the “tent-making” approach is hoped to encourage business people to use spiritual gifts in developing more ministries.

They also addressed theological distortions and extremes in Nigeria—such as the “seed faith” teaching where pastors urge people to give everything in hopes of receiving material blessings, as well as the principle of tithing the increase and not “eating the seed.” Lee has set up a closed Facebook group as a forum for their ongoing discussion and interaction.

Another significant development at the conference was the increasing connections between FCA ministers from various African countries. Five Liberian leaders were present—as well as delegates from Ethiopia, Cameroon, and Ivory Coast—further integrating what God is doing through various FCA connections in Africa.

Pastor Kelvin Leo Seneh from Liberia, preaching at the Nigerian FCA Conference.

African FCA leaders met to determine the next steps in their developing relationship. Some newer members suggested naming an African “secretariat,” but Bishop Success Samuel (from Nigeria) and Kelvin Leo Seneh (from Liberia) explained that would be inconsistent with the character of the FCA. The group then decided that the FCA in each nation would remain distinct and independent—but connected in partnership with each other, similar to the FCA in Canada and the United States.

The attenders were enthused about their new relationships, and many are already planning to be in Liberia in February while also looking forward to another “official” African conference in 2019, possibly in Cameroon.

Bishop Success reported that 13 new members have joined the Nigerian FCA, which now has about 90 churches and 220 ministers.

Some meetings were held in the unfinished FCA Bible School.

The FCA Bible School is now meeting in a building erected with the help of U.S. donations. When completed, it will have five classrooms each holding about 40 students, a double-sized room, two offices, and two bathrooms. The building currently has no doors or windows, but it handles 28 students as they are able to use what they have. Another dozen students or so meet at another site. Additional monies have been made available for some students as partial scholarships as matching funds when they pay their own tuition.

Sprecher observes, “Without question we are seeing a coming together of a truly African FCA, and I am honored to have the opportunity to see it develop.” He notes that while there will undoubtedly be ongoing challenges and much work to be done, there is far more to be encouraged about.

Lead Elder John Sprecher and Bishop Success Samuel.

—This article was drawn from information provided by John Sprecher, U.S. FCA Lead Elder

After 500 Years, What’s All the Fuss?

It was 500 years ago when a young man of conscience and conviction posted a number of comments (95, to be exact) for public debate. Earlier calls to reform the Western Church had not gained much traction—often because of harsh reaction and persecution. A century before, the Czech priest, Jan Hus, was burned at the stake for raising objections to what the church had become.

October 31, 1517 became the tipping point.

But let’s go back just a few years, back to a brilliant, 21-year-old young law student who was beginning to struggle with personal doubt. He took a break from his law studies to travel home and visit his father, who worked in the copper mines.

On his way back to the university, walking through a fierce thunderstorm and drenched by rain, a bolt of lightning slammed to the ground mere feet away. Terror-stricken, the young man begged for mercy from St. Anne, the patroness of miners: “Help me, St. Anne!” There in the rain, fearing for his life, he made a vow: “I will become a monk.”

And so a lightning bolt altered the course of history.

Martin Luther abandoned his law studies and fulfilled his vow. He gave away all his possessions and became an Augustinian monk and later a priest, much to the displeasure of his father. With all those changes, however, one thing had not changed: Martin Luther was still gripped by fear: He lived in fear of not being good enough. He lived in fear of hell and punishment. He lived in fear of the devil.

Martin Luther was like a lot of us—he wanted to be good; he wanted to please God; but he felt so inadequate, so unworthy, so sinful. He knew he could never be good enough, so he kept trying harder.

Luther didn’t just go through the motions of religion, he embraced it: He prayed. He fasted. He engaged in asceticism (going without sleep, for example, or enduring bone-chilling cold without a blanket, or flagellating himself with a whip). While visiting Rome, Luther paid money to buy the release of his grandfather’s soul from purgatory by climbing the 28 steps of the Scala Santa on his knees, saying the Lord’s prayer at each step.

Luther was a loyal, devoted priest in the Catholic church, but even his extreme religious fervor could not bring him peace of heart. No matter how hard he tried, he knew he could never be good enough to please a holy, righteous God.

Then he was assigned to become a professor of the Bible at the University of Wittenburg, Germany, where he began to study the Bible in earnest.

Here was a young priest—earnest and committed—who did not yet grasp the core teachings of the Bible. He knew church doctrine; he followed religious traditions; he did good works, but all his religious efforts came up empty. That only changed once he opened God’s Word and let its truth soak into his heart and mind.

As he studied, Luther asked God for understanding, depending on the Holy Spirit to give him insight. Later he described what happened:

I was seized with the conviction that I must understand [Paul’s] letter to the Romans…but to that moment one phrase in chapter 1 stood in my way. I hated the idea, “in it the righteousness of God is revealed.” …I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners….

At last, meditating day and night and by the mercy of God, I…began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith…. Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through gates that had been flung open. [Christian History, Issue 34 (Vol XI:2), p 15 (1992)]

Martin Luther’s personal awakening spilled over into his teaching and preaching. As he challenged the heavy religious obligations that the church had imposed on people and promised freedom through faith in Christ alone, he became increasingly popular among the people.

Then one day a priest named John Tetzel arrived in town selling “indulgences” to help fund the ongoing building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Indulgences were like “Get Out of Jail” free cards—but you had to pay for them. It was taught that you could buy pardon for sin with money. You could escape the punishment of purgatory (or reduce your time there) by buying an indulgence. This led to all sorts of abuse and corruption. Some men, for example, going on a trip, would buy indulgences ahead of time because they planned to visit a prostitute or two while they were away.

For his part, Tetzel was a marketing genius. He claimed, “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, the rescued soul from purgatory springs.” He even created a chart that listed a price for each type of sin. So John Tetzel created quite a stir when he arrived in town.

Big mistake! Luther became incensed at the way the poor and the uneducated were exploited to fund the extravagances of Rome—angry that people were enslaved by a legalistic doctrine of works. Not only was it bad theology, it was bad politics. These were Germans! Why should they have to pay for a church in Rome?

Luther had already become increasingly frustrated that the church had become encrusted with institutional greed and a corrupt, immoral priesthood. Tetzel’s actions became the last straw for Luther. So on October 31, 1517, Luther nailed a list of concerns to the community bulletin board—the front door of the church in Wittenburg.

His list—95 theses—was intended for scholarly discussion. He wanted to renew and reform the church. But somebody took his 95 theses to the printing press and they spread across the country. Luther didn’t mean to start a revolution, but that’s what happened. Events were set in motion and Luther’s personal awakening spilled over to awaken the entire continent.

Martin Luther did all this at great personal cost. By questioning authority, he put himself at risk of excommunication—even execution. It was not easy to stand alone against his accusers, knowing that if he listened to his conscience he would likely be killed.

Pope Leo X put Martin Luther out of the church in 1521, saying he was a “drunken German who will change his mind when he is sober.” His decree branded Luther “the slave of a depraved mind” and called his followers a “pernicious and heretical sect.” Yet Pope Benedict XVI spoke at Erfurt in 2011 (where Luther studied theology and celebrated his first Mass) about Luther’s concern for sin, noting its significance now when mercy is highlighted at the expense of understating sin and judgment. Benedict said:

“How do I receive the grace of God?” The fact that this question was the driving force of [Luther’s] whole life never ceases to make a deep impression on me. For who is actually concerned about this today—even among Christians? What does the question of God mean in our lives? In our preaching? Most people today, even Christians, set out from the presupposition that God is not fundamentally interested in our sins and virtues. He knows that we are all mere flesh. And insofar as people believe in an afterlife and a divine judgement at all, nearly everyone presumes for all practical purposes that God is bound to be magnanimous and that ultimately he mercifully overlooks our small failings. The question no longer troubles us. [From “Hovering Over Rome” in the World Catholic Report.]

Catholic Cardinal Walter Kasper wrote, “We have much to learn from Luther, beginning with the importance he attached to the word of God.”

Martin Luther wasn’t perfect, of course, but he left a huge mark on history. Today, it’s not just Lutherans who value his influence. Those who protested against the religious abuses of the medieval church became known as Protestants. As Protestants, we value the theological truths that young priest stood for 500 years ago.

Ministry Couples Gather in Wisconsin

In mid-October over 30 ministers and spouses met at Green Lake Wisconsin for the second annual Midwest FCA Retreat. During the three days together, Dr. David Nichols, Rev. Tom Flaherty, and Rev. Dave Ogren shared with us inspiration and encouragement.

Though it was unplanned by the speakers, a theme for the retreat emerged: “Our Identity in Christ.” The practical application was that we are called to be Christ’s ambassadors to the world.

Worship, led by Pastor Marty Pierce and his team of capable musicians from various churches, was inspiring. The rich fellowship carried into the dining hall where great meals were provided by the conference center. The ample free time gave participants the chance to enjoy the outdoors on walking trails and the beautiful grounds of the 650 acre Green Lake Conference Center. Others enjoyed late-evening fun with games and fellowship.

Plans are already in place to hold another retreat next year from October 8 to 10. Pastor Mike McCartney of Christian Hills Church and Pastor Jared Katke of Rock Church did a superb job in planning and providing logistical support and equipment to allow a wonderful worship time and a great setting of the mood for the meetings.

—Report submitted by John Sprecher, U.S. FCA Lead Elder