Prayers for a Post-COVID Church

by Scott Neubauer

In the past five months COVID-19 has shaken the world as we know it—the church world included. During this time, I’ve thought about how God might be using the time we’re in to shake and reshape his church—perhaps even bringing an end to “four-walled” Christianity. Out of that thought process have emerged my points of prayer for a post-COVID church.

1. Less Entertaining, More Equipping.
The major ministry of “the church” is equipping people to “do ministry.” By ministry, I mean ministry outside of Sunday morning. That means less focus on a spiritual show that wows people and more focus on equipping people to actually reach the world they live in Monday through Saturday.

2. Less Spectators, More Ministers.
One of the biggest lies to permeate the modern church is that there’s a small group of guys and gals who do the “ministry” while everyone else just sits back and enjoys. I pray this mentality is coming to a swift end.

3. Less Sunday, More Monday.
If what happens inside the church walls doesn’t change the lives we live outside the church walls, what’s the point? Your job is your pulpit and your colleagues are your congregation. We must move from simply expressing our faith on Sundays to living out our faith on Mondays.

4. More Creativity, Less Passivity.
We live in a world that calls us to constantly consume content. Too many times this mentality has infiltrated the church and we become “church consumers”: consuming worship, a sermon, etc. I believe God has called us to create as well. He is the Creator, and we are made in his image! Let’s not waste our life only consuming.

5. More Prayer, Less Politics.
In some cases that means more prayer, less posting. Our primary job as believers as it relates to our governing authorities is not complaining: it’s praying. Am I praying for them as much as I’m complaining about them? Let’s be careful we’re about our Father’s business and invest our time and energy into the things dear to his heart rather than simply those of our favorite political party.

6. More Passion, Less Profession.
I pray the days we’re living in restore our passion as Christians. Faith without works is useless, but so is profession of our faith without passion for our faith.
Romans 12:10-11 (NLT) tells us, “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.”
Church within the four walls has led us to become educated beyond our obedience. We know all the right things, but the passion to put them into practice is lacking.

7. More About People, Less About a Place.
In the Old Testament there was a holy place, but now there’s only a holy people—the holy place is wherever God’s people set their feet. COVID-19 has caused multi-million dollar church buildings to sit nearly empty. It’s moved the body of Christ to think outside the box: holding worship services on rooftops, in parking lots, in neighborhoods, and more. I pray this pushes us as the church at large to rightfully return our focus to the people of God rather than simply a place we gather. The questions we must ask ourselves in every season is: “What is God up to? What good thing does he want to accomplish in me?” I pray we don’t miss our chance to reset as a church and as individuals.

Scott Neubauer, is Lead Pastor at Watershed Church in Elgin, Illinois.

 

 

Billie Call: With the Lord

VETERAN MISSIONARY WITH THE LORD

Billie Call, widow of George Call, died on August 20th, 2020 at the age of 92. At the time of her home-going she resided in a Texas nursing home under hospice care. Her daughter, Terry, shared that for several years Billie had been eagerly anticipating going to be with the Lord.

George and Billie Call were married in 1946 after his return from service in the Navy. They came to the Lord early in their marriage and became faithful servants of Jesus. They pastored at Georgetown Gospel Chapel while attending Seattle Bible School before graduating from there in 1962. In 1963 they became missionaries at the Sinoe Leprosy Mission in Liberia.

When George died in 1982 in an airplane accident, Billie chose to stay on in Liberia to continue the work they had been doing as church planters and Bible teachers. She remained there off and on through two coups until 1992, when she moved back to her hometown of Joplin, Missouri, and continued serving and volunteering at her local church.

Throughout their lives George and Billie Call were dedicated, faithful servants of Jesus Christ. They were greatly appreciated for their long service of ministry in Liberia.

Billie is survived by her son George Jr, daughter-in-law Donna, grandchildren Lana and George III; her daughter Terry Lynn, son-in-law Andrew Herrity, granddaughters Tabitha (husband Tim) and Elizabeth (husband Mitch), and two great grandchildren Abigail and Aidan.

FCA Church Launches Online Bible College

Hope Hill Church in Manhattan, New York, is launching a one-year, two-semester online Bible College (unaccredited) this fall. Hope Hill Bible College will offer a Certificate in Biblical Studies in the first semester, followed by an accompanying Certificate in Leadership Studies in the 2021 spring semester.

The program is designed to assist believers to expand their competencies for a greater life of spiritual legacy and service, whether that be through volunteer ministry or as paid staff at a church, non-profit organization, or on the mission field.

“Our program is intended for serious-minded students of God’s Word,” says Beau Lee, pastor of Hope Hill. “It’s for those who desire to be used by God in serving others for Jesus.” He claims that while the courses will be fun, including community building activities and material, the chief aim of the program is to provide in-depth training for people dedicated to ministry.

As a result, he says the new school is “locked on” to the mission, seeking the most focused applicants. “Our certificate training is vital for us to prepare us as a church to disciple the people God draws into our churches throughout the year,” says Lee, noting that people regularly visit churches with big questions about God. “They come with hurt and pain and in need of the healing only Jesus can offer.”

Still others, Lee observes, need someone to come alongside them to disciple them and lead them through personal issues in order to live full lives and, in turn, share God’s love and truth with others. “Every believer in Jesus needs to be activated to fulfill the Great Commission,” Lee says. “Hope Hill Bible College is here to help equip and activate believers in Jesus all across the United States towards this goal.”

The school’s initial offering will include lectures, reading materials, and media resources from some of the greatest leadership and ministry resources available today. The instruction and course materials will be at a level that should effectively challenge students of all academic backgrounds.

Classes begin on Thursday, September 10th (7:00-9:00 p.m. EST) and continue each Thursday through both the Fall and Spring semesters. The cost ($380 per semester) covers facility, instruction, and course materials with subsidized tuition available for regular Hope Hill attendees.

Due to COVID-19, the application deadline has been extended up to the week before class begins (September 3, 2020). Applicants are encouraged to complete their application as early as possible, however, so they will have opportunity to purchase course books.

Applications (click here) should be submitted to the school office for review. Those accepted will be notified by email and provided a link for Canvas online education platform (along with a student login) to find course information, assignments, and class videos links.

Beau Lee is a professional guitarist, entrepreneur, business consultant, author of Jesus Plus Nothing Equals Salvation, and the Lead Pastor of Hope Hill in Manhattan, New York. After studying theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS), he went on to pursue a Master of Science in Management, Strategy & Leadership at Michigan State University (Broad School of Business). Pastor Beau is presently working on a Doctor of Ministry program in Growing & Multiplying Churches from Biola University (Talbot School of Theology), and is writing a commentary on the book of Romans.

On the Receiving End of “the Look”

By Dean Merrill

Did you grow up with a mom or a dad who, if you got out of line, could stop you in your tracks without saying a word? I certainly did. If I was doing or saying something inappropriate (especially in front of other people), a cold stare would let me know I had better cut it out right now. I’d freeze in response.

The other day I came across a moment in Luke’s gospel where Jesus employed “the look” with one of his disciples. It happened in the middle of an intense grilling by the high priest and his minions, with Jesus being bombarded by hostile questions and accusations. Meanwhile, outside at the courtyard fire, Peter was trying to dance around the suspicions of questioners. After his third denial, suddenly “the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter…” (Luke 22:61).

He didn’t say a word. He didn’t need to. The steady gaze of the Master sent a shiver down Peter’s spine as he stumbled out into the chilly darkness, sobbing. He’d been busted.

Actually, the Lord earlier that evening had already said all he needed to—twice: “Pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (vss. 40, 46). Maybe Peter thought Jesus had meant something classic like the temptation to greed, or lust, or pride. Instead, the big fisherman had fallen to the temptation of disloyalty in order to stay anonymous in a dicey environment.

The complex challenges of life put all of us into moments that test our character. Will we do the right thing regardless of the consequences, or will we tap-dance around the matter? Will we rationalize, cut a corner, shade the truth? Or in different moments, will we flare out with cutting words because, after all, we have a right to speak our mind?

Ed Koch was the colorful three-term mayor of New York City throughout the 1980s. When out on the street or in a crowd shaking hands, he often didn’t give the common greeting of “Hello! How are you doing?” Instead, he’d say with a grin, “How’m I doin’? How’m I doin’?” And the blunt citizens of the Big Apple were only too willing to tell Koch exactly what they thought of his performance as mayor.

That’s a good question to ask God at the close of a day, when we slow down enough to review. How did I do today, Lord? Where you pleased with what you saw from me this day? Was anything out of line? Anything I need to correct next time around? I want you to be happy with my words, my actions, even my thoughts and motives, because your opinion of me is what I value most in life.

The apostle Paul once exhorted a group of Christians, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5). Whether we get Heaven’s version of a smile, or Heaven’s version of “the look,” it’s always worth making the inquiry.

Dean Merrill, long-time member of the FCA, is a former magazine editor and writer best known for his award-winning collaborations with such Christian leaders as Jim Cymbala (Brooklyn Tabernacle), Wess Stafford (Compassion International), and Gracia Burnham (Philippine missionary hostage survivor). You may find more of Dean Merrill’s writing at www.deanmerrill.com

 

 

Juneteenth

by Sam Snyder

Today is June 19th, 2020. Besides being my 16th Wedding Anniversary, it is also the 155th anniversary of the news of the Emancipation Proclamation reaching Galveston, Texas, one of the last holdouts for slavery in the USA. (It took 2½ years for the news to reach there!) June 19th came to be known as Juneteenth or Freedom Day to celebrate freedom and that “all men are created equal” and therefore should all be able to have life, liberty, and happiness.

Less than a month ago the whole world was shocked and horrified by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, not too far from where I live. That moment impacted the whole world. While reaction and counter-reaction have touched cities and churches across the country, 11 of our FCA churches are in the Twin Cities, in neighborhoods directly impacted by George’s murder and the ensuing unrest.

Ten of those churches are either multi-ethnic or non-majority cultures, including Fountain of Life, pastored by Jim Halbur, located just a few blocks from where this all took place. They have been engaged daily on a deep level, along with a number of our Minnesota and Twin Cities FCA pastors—ministering to the community, bringing peace and healing. We are all heartbroken for the family, friends, and communities impacted by this brutal act, subsequent unrest and all of the hurt that has been brought to the surface. 

Twin Cities pastors and others meet for prayer at
38th and Chicago where George Floyd was killed.

 

 

 

 

As some of you know, I spent my first 18 years growing up in Mexico, but the last 20 living in the USA. For 11 years now I’ve been pastoring a multi-ethnic church plant in the Twin Cities, while also being connected to our FCA churches and many other churches and leaders from cross-cultural backgrounds here in the Twin Cities.

We are at ground-zero of where God is uncovering injustice, inequity, and iniquity, and I believe God is doing a new thing through what has transpired in the last few weeks. George’s death was not an isolated incident but part of a long history of systemic racism and injustice (meaning there are still systems or structures in place that impact opportunities for people based on race or class). Prevailing societal biases are being exposed that go beyond the problems with law enforcement. Institutional roadblocks and attitudinal hindrances greatly impact our lives in this country.

Six years ago I wrote about the sin of racism and “otherism” and how we could move forward after Mike Brown’s murder and the protests in Ferguson…yet here we are again. Have we moved forward? I recognize that a large portion of our Fellowship is white majority culture, so I know some of this may feel far-removed from your daily experience, but I ask you to read on because our Fellowship and our churches are not only made up of white people but also of people of color, and this is very significant to their lives and experiences. As such, it must be significant for each of our lives and the life of the church as a whole. These are my friends, brothers, and sisters (and yours too). This is the future of the church in this country. As a father of three bi-racial children, this is also the future of my children in this country and within the Fellowship (and yours too). This impacts us all.

"You can protest by marching and you can
protest by serving," I told my kids.

 

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote from a Birmingham jail to his white brothers and sisters in the faith saying: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” 

At times like these, we need to speak out against injustice and stand for what’s right because EVERY black life matters! This is not to say that you associate with any political movement or plan. Rather, it is to declare and demonstrate that each person is made in the image of God and dearly loved by God. Right now our black brothers and sisters need to know that we see them, hear them, and love them. Our ethic in doing so is not rooted in politics or popularity but in Theology: the Imago Dei that God made all of humanity in his image (Genesis 1:27). So, when we speak of equal justice for our brothers and sisters of color it comes from a scriptural conviction that we are ALL made in the image of God and therefore have innate value to God and to each other.

Please hear what I’m not saying: I’m not saying that we should align ourselves with a political party or movement to the left or to the right. In fact, as followers of Jesus we belong to a Kingdom that is “not of this world”!

Therefore, we are called to speak the truth to powers when those powers act unjustly (on either side), to teach that this world is not our home to believers who are living for this world, to show that this earthly citizenship is secondary to our primary citizenship, and to submit our political divisions and cultural distinctives to our primary identity as sons and daughters of the King whose Kingdom is not of this world. That means that we MUST disagree with the world around us, living radical lives that don’t conform to the left-right narrative but instead stand for the justice, joy, peace, and power of the kingdom of God. There are definitely forces at work trying to conform us to the left or to the right…but we are called to be transformed and to think differently than the world around us. To acknowledge that problems need to be fixed or that conditions need to be improved is not to assume we will all agree on how! In fact, the pressure to conform and agree to one particular solution will keep us from growing and improving. Why? Because people instinctively entrench against solutions they oppose rather than work together in a spirit of compromise for greater justice and equality.

So what’s next? How should we respond? I think it’s easy to look to others to do something or say something to bring about change, but Jesus taught us that the Great Command was for each of us to love our neighbor “as we love ourselves.” He went on to define “neighbor” as people whom the world would expect us to hate. So that really raises the bar of personal responsibility to love God and love others:

It starts with me. It is so easy to avoid, disengage, or even blame another, but God calls us to each “consider the plank in our eye first.” It starts with each of us reflecting, repenting, and reorienting to the things of God. I like the way that the Group Civil Righteousness puts it: “While ‘Rights’ deals with our externals, ‘Righteousness’ deals with our internals. We believe that Jesus’ justice begins there. Internal transformation leads to external reformation and produces eternal satisfaction.”

Serving food at "ground zero" with Fountain of Life Church.
The George Floyd mural is in the background.

 

It really starts with LOVE in and through each of us. MLK also said that, “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Here are some suggestions I think might help us move forward for God’s purposes together:

1. Listen.

We have dear sisters and brothers—people of color in our very own church families, pastors in the FCA, pastors in our cities. Seek them out, hear their stories, pray with them, commit to standing with them. Don’t deny or dismiss their stories by trying to consider other options on why a situation may have happened. Don’t try to defend your perspective or yourself from discomfort. Take a walk in their shoes. Seeing and hearing another person is one of the greatest kindnesses we can show another human being and is a powerful way for us to grow and increase our understanding.

But more than that, as members of God’s family we are brothers and sisters!Pastor Lidovick Pierre who leads Hatian Christian Fellowship in St. Paul said, “We don’t need allies, we need brothers and sisters.” Pastor Justin Byakweli who leads International Christian Fellowship in St. Paul shared, “I take the killing of George Floyd personally…because his death offends the fundamental principles of justice, every notion of dignity and the idea that through those threads, all of our lives are connected.”

These are only two interactions I have had. I could share tons of conversations, prayer times, and messages that have been taking place where people of color have been pouring out their hearts longing for justice and peace in a variety of different contexts. This should start in the church in the “bond of brotherhood.”

2. Lament Injustice and Sin.

We are called to weep with those who weep during this time. But godly sorrow leads to repentance, so we must look at our lives and our country for sins, both of commission and omission. We should each repent on behalf of the racism that has taken place in this nation (the systems and structures which perpetuate the subjugation of one group of people to the benefit of another that has been going on since the foundation). We are thankful that this is not pre-civil war era and that we have progressed beyond some of the pre-civil rights era sins, but we are not done yet. Lamenting that things are not as they should be in society; beginning with the sin of racism and greed and extending to other ways that our society has turned away from the knowledge of God (Romans 1).

You may not feel directly connected to sins of the past because you did not cause it and did not contribute to it. But you have benefited from those sinful social structures of the past beginning with the treatment of the native american peoples through slavery and segregation and down to the remnants that impact our brothers and sisters to this day. (If you don’t agree, I invite you to see the first point under #3 below.) But regardless of our feelings, we can see in the Prophets the need for repenting of the sins of the ancestors and the significance of lamentation and repentance in bringing righteousness to a land (2 Chronicles 7:13-14). Lamentation must be followed by repentance in prayer and in action.

3. Learn more about our present and our past.

Here are a few things to check out:

4. Lead towards Justice and Peace.

With COVID and recent unrest, I have heard in conversations many people longing to get back to “normal.” We as Christians have never been called to live a normal life, but rather to live a life that is being transformed daily by the renewing of our minds in Christ Jesus. It is also worth noting that returning back to the “way things were” before the murder of George Floyd would mean that we invalidate the unjust and inexcusable experiences so long endured by the beloved people of color in our church families and communities.

So we don’t want “normal.” We are called to reformation and rebuilding. We want God to rebuild our cities, and we want to allow him to rebuild the broken places and bring his completeness. I believe there are places that need to be Reformed in the church and in the systems of this nation. We want God to make us all whole through redemption, reconciliation and restoration. That will lead us to biblical justice and biblical peace. This will impact wherever you live, so I encourage you to be involved in local and state-wide initiatives that bring about reformation when unjust laws or systems are brought to your attention. Be involved in teaching and preaching a biblical ethic that confronts injustice, inequity, and iniquity on both sides of the political aisle.

We often define peace as the absence of chaos or conflict and we try to achieve it by denying or dismissing situations that make us uncomfortable. True peace is about harmony and wholeness, and it was accomplished through the death of Jesus in our place as he confronted the principalities and powers who had been working (and still are) to keep humanity under their power and control. We are called to be peaceMAKERS, not peaceKEEPERS, or even peaceFAKERS. HERE is a message I shared with our church over a year ago on being a peaceMAKER from Ephesians 4:1-6.

I want to encourage you to Love our neighbors, brothers, and sisters of color by Lamenting, Listening, Learning, and Leading towards the new thing God is doing! I have been praying for Repentance, Reformation, and Revival in this nation—and, as it usually goes with those things, it starts with the church…and that starts with each one of us saying “it starts with me.”

Sam Snyder is pastor of Cross Culture Community Church in Minneapolis. He currently serves as president of the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies U.S. National Board.