Being The Missional Church

From the opening of my 2012 year-end annual report…

One of the things that has made the Alliance distinct is our missionary emphasis.

Well over 100 years ago, Dr. Simpson felt led by God to swim against the flow of doing church the normal way, and to reach out to people who didn’t know Jesus – particularly overseas. Simpson’s relocation from Toronto to Louisville to New York was intentional: He wanted to get near the Atlantic so that he could begin to send people overseas to proclaim grace to those who hadn’t heard. In that regard, we were purpose-driven before Rick Warren was born! (On occasion, you’ll hear people who object to being purposeful in ministry or folks who talk and blog about the dangers of the missional church. Those people aren’t Alliance. And, frankly, I worry that they aren’t even in tune with Jesus, who was undeniably missional.)

This missions heart beats deeply with me, personally. Since I first surrendered to Christ sitting in the car in the driveway of my parents home, I have been concerned about those who don’t know – and don’t care to know – Christ. But in addition to (note I didn’t say rather than) overseas ministry, I have felt God leading me (and us) to be mission-driven on a local level. This fire was kindled in me in a real way when I heard, then missionary, Carl McGarvey, speak at a Men’s Retreat. He said, Think globally; act locally. I’ve personally worked to do that ever since.

Many of you are new to Curwensville Alliance. We love having you here. And I am guessing that you like the atmosphere, the music, the message, and the presence of the Spirit. If you ever wonder, “Why do I like this so much?” part of the answer is in the reality that we are mission-driven. We are working to help you like it here so you can connect with God when you come. But my desire as your pastor is not just to keep you comfy here. I want to inspire you, yourself, to become mission-driven. In fact, that’s probably a big part of the corner we need to turn as a church.

How can we move from being a group of spiritual consumers to becoming spiritual contributors?

One way is to think like Dr. Simpson thought. He looked around at the needs he saw. He looked beyond himself at the needs he could only hear of. And he prayerfully considered which ones he could meet and which ones he could not. What are the needs you are aware of in our own community? What about the needs around the world? As much as I dislike cable news, it serves a purpose that can be beneficial, if you let it: It shows us how desperately this world needs Jesus. From Syria to North Korea, we see people in need — in need of peace, in need of everyday things, and in need of Jesus. When we see how messed up this world is, we should ask God to show us how we, as a church, can be involved in meeting those needs. And beyond this, let’s give consideration to what we can do locally. We do much – from stocking the local food-bank to assisting the ministerial association in their missions of showing the love of Christ to others. But let’s not be satisfied with what we do. Let’s press on to do even greater things.

It’s an honor to serve as your pastor. You are a great group of people with great potential. In 2013, may we examine how we can live out that potential for the benefit of those who don’t know Jesus and for the glory of God.

Quote from Rock Dillaman…

It was great, hearing Rock Dillaman at Mahaffey Camp. He spoke to those present about the ministry of the Church in society. I took a few moments and typed these words from his first sermon at Mahaffey Family Camp, 2012.

I want to begin this first night by reading something that Bill Hybels said a few years ago, “There is nothing like the local church when it’s working right. Its beauty is indescribable. Its power is breathtaking. Its potential is unlimited. It comforts the grieving and heals the broken in the context of community. It builds bridges to seekers and offers truth to the confused. It provides resources to those in need and opens its arms to the forgotten, the downtrodden, the disillusioned. It breaks the chains of addictions, frees the oppressed, and offers belonging to the marginalized of this world. Whatever the capacity for human suffering, the church has a greater capacity for healing and wholeness. Still, to this day, the potential of the local church is almost more than I can grasp,” he said. “No other organization on earth is like the church — nothing even comes close.”

But notice how he began: “There’s nothing like the local church when it’s working right.”

But let me tell you something that I think you already know: There is nothing more tragic, more heartbreaking, more discouraging than the local church when it isn’t working right. Because when it isn’t working right, the ugliness is indescribable. The weakness is breathtaking. The potential is unfulfilled. And rather than comforting the grieving, it just creates more heartache than there already is in this world. And as I look across the church scene in our own nation, in many places, I see the church being ugly rather than breathtaking.

We’re not even evangelizing our own children very well. Do you know that a recent study has indicated 57% of young men and women raised in evangelical churches — as soon as they get out of high school — walk away from the faith and walk away from the church. 57%. I don’t think that many would be walking away if they were seeing something breathtaking. But I think many are walking away, by their own testimony, because they’ve just seen ugliness, division, infighting, power struggles, personality cults, love of tradition rather than love of lost people, refusal to change, lack of Spirit-power, lack of vision, business as usual, excuse-making, deadness of spirit, deadness of heart. When the church isn’t working — just makes you want to weep. — Rock Dillaman at Mahaffey Family Camp, 7/20/2012

May God make our local church breathtaking.

~Pastor Steve

Oh Be Careful Little Fingers What You Type…

Today I listened to Blaine Workman’s podcast: Learning to Speak TOBOG. He was speaking about our speaking — the words we say. He noted that if Paul were writing to the Ephesians today, he might say words like this:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth or flow from your fingers. Texting, twitter, facebook, blogs — they are all helpful tools for communicating in our digital age, none of them good or bad in and of themselves. But the rotting verbal garbage that some Christians are willing to post in texts or online is just appalling. It has no place among God s people. In some weird inexplicable way, talking to their electronic device somehow frees people to spew the most vile and corrupting talk in ways they’d be ashamed to do, speaking face to face with the real person. And brothers and sisters, the anonymity of cyberspace is no license for corrupting talk. If your brother sins against you, Jesus says, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. Today, we go tell the whole world in an anonymous post in a blog somewhere… ~Pastor Blaine Workman

That’s a bold thing for a pastor to say. It’s especially bold today, because it’s a quick way to be unfriended in social media.

Take a listen to Pastor Blaine yourself. Maybe you could post it on your own facebook or other social media page.

I dare you.

Holding on to Hope…

At Curwensville Alliance, on Easter Sunday there were 109 in the first service and 191 in the second. That’s 300, but of course, many were in both services. As I’ve talked to many concerning this great day at Curwensville Alliance, one of them remarked, “I wonder how many of them will be there next week.” The cynic that I used to be would concur, thinking, “Yeah — those Easter and Christmas People….. Tsk, tsk, tsk. They have no commitment to being in church regularly.” I have since repented of such cynicism. Thank you, God, for purging it from my heart.

The Bible tells us to be men and women of faith. We are to never lose heart, but to hope (Romans 12:12). Losing heart is the pathway toward despair. I have never heard anyone indicate it was a good place to be. On the contrary, despair is a great evil that wise people resist with all their hearts.

The concept of holding on to hope is connected with the resurrection of Jesus. Paul concludes what many call The Resurrection Chapter with the words, 58Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Cor 15:58 — NIV) Despairing people do not stand firm in their faith in Christ. Only those who choose to hope continue to give themselves fully to the work of the Lord. Only those who thoroughly resist cynicism know that their labor in the Lord has meaning.

Some weeks ago I was speaking to a gentleman concerning some mutual friends who made the same sinful choices over and over. In our conversation, his cynicism was showing. I wanted to help him turn from that path, so I said to him these simple words: Don’t despair. I say the same to each of you who call Curwensville Alliance your church home.

Easter Sunday was glorious. The evidence of the resurrection of Christ shone in our congregation as we enjoyed the drama, the meal, the visiting, the music, and the message. Rather than asking ourselves, “I wonder how many will be there this week?” let’s take a different path. Let’s take a path of hope — hope that the same God who broke through into our lives would break through into the lives of our friends and loved ones. And let’s put some wheels on that hope by praying for and reconnecting with those who were here on Easter and inviting them to join us again this week.

Let’s leave the cynicism behind and live as people of faith.

At the Medical Center…


Yesterday, at the Dead Sea, Ronnie burned his feet on the pavement, so here I sit in the waiting room waiting to see what the doctor says.

The Mount of Olives and Gethsemane would be nice to see again, but what a blessing to hear Ronnie say, “God bless you for coming with me.”

The news is that Donnie and Beverly. If they have to return to the States today. it will be a long journey.

UPDATE: Ronnie is recovering in his room as of 4:00 p.m. Thanks for praying.