Pastor Carl Johnson with the Lord

Pastor Carl Johnson

Long-time FCA friend and pastor Carl Johnson went to be with the Lord this past Monday, September 21, 2020. He was 69, born on November 2, 1950.

Carl attended Oral Roberts University where he met Diana Stansell from California. They married in 1972. Carl earned a Masters of Divinity degree at Gordon-Conwell in 1974 and a Doctor of Divinity from Kings College in 2008.

Carl moved with his family to New City, New York, in December 1977 to pastor New City Gospel Fellowship (now called Gracepoint Gospel Fellowship). He remained pastor there for over 40 years and was well loved by his congregation.

Carl enjoyed teaching, preaching, mission work, skiing with kids and grandkids, and attending Giants and Yankee games. His time with family and grandkids brought him great joy even as he fought cancer. He will be greatly missed by his family and the church he served so well.

Family will receive friends on Friday evening from 7 – 8:30 pm and Saturday from 9 – 10:30 am at Gracepoint, 384 New Hempstead Rd in New City. Carl’s family will receive friends Friday evening as well as Saturday morning, September 26, at Gracepoint (384 Hempstead Road, New City) from 9 a.m. until the 10:30 service. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Gracepoint with his name. All funds received will be sent to IllumiNations, an organization working to translate the Bible into every language. Carl’s desire was always to spread the message that guided his life and gave him hope.

The service will be livestreamed (10:30 a.m. eastern time) on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/gracepointgf

Carl’s full obituary may be found at: https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/new-city-ny/carl-johnson-9374430

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

 

 

Transformed to Reconciliation

By Pastor Jim Olson

Editor’s note: FCA pastor Jim Olson writes for participants and supporters of the reconciliation ministry he leads. His unique perspective on race relations and the journey many of us are on, especially at this critical time in our nation’s history, is a story that needs to be heard.

Today I want to share with you the Story of Transformation which led me, a young white boy from segregated south Chicagoland on a journey towards becoming an ambassador of racial reconciliation here in St. Paul and in the world (My Story). I also want to share with you my personal and pastoral response to the cry for racial justice in our country (My Response).

My Story

I’m going to start at the very beginning of my journey because the work of reconciliation has to start at the beginning. So my story begins over 60 years ago when I was born during Thanksgiving week, 1959, in Harvey Illinois, between Chicago and Gary, Indiana. I grew up in Homewood, Illinois, a block off of 183rd Street, in other words 183 blocks from the center of Chicago, in the south suburbs. It was a blue-collar suburb, lots of folks worked in the steel industry, my father was a die sinker and my mom was a nurse. It wasn’t until my late elementary years, and into my Junior High and Senior High years from 1968 into the 70’s that I began to realize just how segregated the environment I grew up in was, actually more than segregated, it was racist.

White flight from South Chicago in the 60s created strong white enclaves in the south suburbs that both resisted and resented any possible encroachment from Black citizens. I clearly remember lines of demarcation that you did not cross, lines that were enforced both implicitly and explicitly. Though I was too young and unformed to fully articulate my experience, nevertheless I was aware that a vast gulf existed between my experience and the experience of “those” people, people I did not know, nor did I understand.

After graduating from Homewood-Flossmoor High School in 1977, a school that had 4,000 students of which perhaps a handful were people of color, I went off to attend Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, the far western suburbs of Chicago. Wheaton too was an almost exclusively white suburb, and the college too was predominantly white. It was there that I had my first significant interactions with people from different backgrounds and cultures than my own. It was also there that this conservative baptist boy was first introduced to the charismatic movement as well as other broader expressions of the Christian faith.

After college, I returned home briefly to Homewood, began dating my wife Annette whom I had known since I was 5 years old, having grown up in the same church, and in 1983 got married to her in the church we were attending at that time, Homewood Full Gospel Church. It was there in that church that I was first immersed in a truly multiracial congregation, a forerunner church, a large and growing church that was about 50% White, 40% African-American, and 10% from other backgrounds. There I saw a picture of Kingdom reality that I had not seen before and that was tremendously attractive to me.

After our wedding and honeymoon my wife and I moved here to the Twin Cities in July of 1983. We came so that I could pursue my Masters of Divinity at Bethel Seminary and Annette went off to work at 3M as a Systems Analyst. We got involved at a local church here in St. Paul, Bethel Temple (now Bethel Christian Fellowship) where I did a ministry internship for a year before moving up to Central Minnesota to pastor Westside Church in Kettle River, 5 miles outside of a town of 174 people.There I discovered that I had a great deal to learn from people that were quite different from me. It was a lovely time, graced by the favor of the Lord. Both the church and we grew tremendously, and after five and a half years we moved back to Saint Paul when I became the senior pastor of Bethel Christian Fellowship in 1990.

In 1994 God spoke very clearly to us from Isaiah 56 and Isaiah 35 that we were called to “Radiate Life and Joy as a House of Prayer for All Nations.” At the time, there were only a small handful of people of color in the church. We weren’t sure just what to do next so we prayed more and began to prepare ourselves to receive whomever God might bring us. Soon he brought us our first refugee family, a family from Haiti. Then another family from Haiti joined us, then others from various places and backgrounds began to come, and over the next 15 years our church family grew to embrace folks from over 25 different nations and members from multiple American cultures. Then starting in 2010 we began to welcome whole people groups and our All Nations Family of Churches was established, now encompassing eight congregations with services in 7 different languages. Over those years my constant prayer was, “Lord, we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

Along the way, I went back to get my Doctorate of Ministry in Global and Contextual Leadership from Bethel University from 2006 – 2010. Through my lived experience and that season of study, over and over again I was confronted with my privilege and myopic perspective. I clearly remember one day when I was speaking to the Lord about my gratitude that He had brought all “these foreigners” into our congregation (Isaiah 56) who had enriched our life together so much. And then I heard His gentle but clear rebuke, “Jim, don’t you know that you are a foreigner too?” That day marked a major step on my journey of transformation.

In 2016, I accepted the invitation of the Spirit (through the voice of Molly Rouner) to lead the Pilgrim Center. This beautiful work has only served to bring me to a deeper place of humility and dependence on the Lord. Like the Apostle Peter in Acts 10 – 11, I have been on a journey all these years, first becoming aware of my cultural biases and prejudices, then beginning a learning process about other cultures and the necessity for me to adapt my perspectives to come into alignment with His. Along the way, God began to reveal the specific actions that I needed to take to begin to build bridges and walk in the way of reconciliation. And now I find myself leaning into the work of becoming an advocate for those whose voices need to be heard, whose stories need to be told, who’s lives need to be valued. All preparation for becoming an “ambassador of reconciliation.”

My Response

And what does that mean right now, in this pivotal moment? What is God requiring of me, of you, of the Pilgrim Center? There are three words that I have been hearing Him speak to my soul:

On June 3, 2020, Jim and his wife, Annette, took part in a silent march in St. Paul, led by the Twin Cities Black Clergy, bearing witness to the unjust death of George Floyd. They walked together with the police chief, mayor, other clergy, and people of all backgrounds.

Lament: Psalm 10

It was five years ago this week, June 17th, 2015, that another horrible tragedy took place in our country, the shooting of 9 African-American parishioners at Emanuel AMEChurch in Charleston South Carolina at the hands of a young white man who had joined them in Bible study before taking out a gun and opening fire. As a pastor, as a human, my heart was shredded open when I heard the news. As I went to the Lord to seek wisdom, understanding, and a way to respond He brought me to Psalm 10, a Psalm of lament. Please click and read it now and listen carefully to what the psalmist says.

The first invitation from the Spirit is to respond to the injustice and the resulting brokenness that we see all around us with lament. Lament is a very common biblical posture. It is when we, as God’s people, unflinchingly face the reality of the way things are broken, divided, and not working. We bring our own, as well as others grief, suffering, and pain to the Lord, focusing not only on” the issues,” but placing those issues before the Lord and asking Him to help us repair where things have been broken, reconcile where things have been divided, and restore where things are not working. Everywhere God has brought us in our Pilgrim Center work there have been rivers of tears, sometimes with words, more often with just groans. God stores up those liquid prayers and pours them back in healing and hope.

Repent: Nehemiah 1:5-11; Daniel 9:4-19

The next step that comes out of our lament, is to repent. As we face the injustice and brokenness we see around us, the Spirit invites us to take responsibility for our part in how things are as opposed to how they ought to be. Not only our sins of commission but also our sins of omission. Not only our personal sin, but, as Nehemiah and Daniel did, we identify with the sins of our people. Not only the sins of the present, but also the sins of the past. Please click and read the Nehemiah and Daniel passages.

In the Pilgrim Center, we have an amazing example of the prophetic power of this type of repentance. When our founders Dr. Arthur and Molly Rouner first went to Rwanda immediately following the genocide there, Molly asked the Lord why it was that He had brought her there. His answer was profound, “I have brought you here to go to your knees before them, to ask the forgiveness of these people for what your own people of the West did, to divide them from each other.” Everywhere she went, Molly got down on her knees, and the door for reconciliation was opened.

In the Pilgrim Center we still enter this holy work on our knees, both literally and figuratively. Many times, in many places, I have followed Mama Molly’s example and gone to my knees in repentance, asking for forgiveness. We have an opportunity to come in that same posture now, repenting and seeking forgiveness, for ourselves, for our people, for the past, and for the present. All so that we might begin to write a new story for the future, a story of repair, of restoration, of reconciliation, of shalom.

Foment: Isaiah 42:1-4

After we have done the deep work of lamenting and repenting, I hear the Spirit’s invitation to foment. But what does that mean? I searched for an answer to a concept I do not fully understand.

I started in Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary where I found the definition of foment means to apply warm lotions in order to ease pain. So, I discovered, our first responsibility in fomenting is to come alongside to comfort and care for those who have been afflicted. Our Pilgrim Center work has always been a work of comfort and healing, bringing a balm to those who have been deeply wounded and traumatized. Starting in Rwanda, with leaders whose lives, families, and communities had been shattered by genocide, the Pilgrim Center for Reconciliation has come alongside all these years to encourage the “bruised reed” and empower the “smoldering wick.” Read Isaiah 42:1-4.

Another meaning of fomenting is to rouse, to instigate, to catalyze for change. I have lived here in the US my whole life and have also traveled to many parts of the world, and I have found that every culture and system has both beauty and brokenness in various ways. I have also discovered that there is a Kingdom culture that transcends and transforms all these earthly cultures and systems.The Pilgrim Center is called to follow the King, serving as Ambassadors of Reconciliation to catalyze Kingdom transformation in lives, relationships, and communities, until we see His justice established on the earth.

I am committed to continuing to walk together with you on this journey of becoming Ambassadors of Reconciliation. My confident hope and prayer is that together as Ambassadors we might see God’s shalom here in our world. Maranantha, even so come, Lord!

Pastor Jim Olson has served FCA churches for years. In 2016, Bethel Christian Fellowship (St. Paul), where he served as pastor for 26 years, sent Jim to be President of the Pilgrim Center for Reconciliation. In that role Jim ministers Christ’s grace and healing in reconciling individuals and groups of people in both the U.S. and internationally.

NOTE: As a next step, you can join Jim via Facebook Live for a “Living Reconciliation Evening”: Engaging the Powers: A Principled Approach on Thursday, July 30. Please click HERE to find out more information or visit our website www.pilgrimcenter.org for ongoing updates and additional opportunities.