Ministry Update and Prayer Requests

Church Planting, cities, Philadelphia, Rambling Thoughts, Uncategorized, Urban Ministry

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Yesterday I drove to York, PA, about a 2 hour drive west of Philadelphia. Through the years Pastor Dan White and the church family have supported the ministry of church planting in Philadelphia through their prayers and finances. It was a nice time of reacquainting with the church. When I was with North American Missions I consulted with the church, helping them to plant a new church in their area. It was enjoyable to reconnect with several of the men and women who served on the church-planting steering committee; it was wonderful to hear of their continued interest and concern for our church-planting efforts, now in Philly. Will you join me in prayer for the York Grace Brethren Church?

I drove home in time to attend church at Wissinoming at 6:00 PM. I was hoping to find Kareem out on the street and to invite him into the service. I had met Kareem, a young African-American man, last Sunday night after church sitting on the steps of the Laundromat next to the church. We had a nice conversation. I invited him to come to church next week. I knew it was a long shot, especially because it was raining and cold. I didn’t find him, but I will continue looking for him again. Will you pray for Kareem?

Last Friday evening I had a chance to speak with and pray for a nurse assistant. He is separated from his girlfriend and three-year old daughter. He was very open to talk to me, especially after he found out that I am a pastor. He had several questions about his relationship with his girlfriend and his concern for his daughter. I prayed with him and told him that I’d be back to the hospital this week, seeing a patient, and will look for him so that we can talk further. He lives in North Philly. Will you pray for him? His name is Thomas.

This coming Sunday, March 9, we will be presenting a ministry update at Lehigh Valley Grace Brethren Church in Bethlehem, PA, about an hour north of Philadelphia. Pastor Larry Humberd and the church family have been another prayer and financial supporter of MetroGrace for many years. The church added Anecia and me to their 2014 missionary budget for which we are so thankful! Will you pray for us as we present the ministry in Bethlehem this coming Sunday, March 9? Will you also pray for Lehigh Valley Grace Brethren Church? Thank you!

Both Pastor Dan and Pastor Larry have been dear friends of mine for many years. It is so nice to reconnect and visit with longtime friends, isn’t it? It is equally nice to meet new people, especially those who need the Lord. I have enjoyed meeting several of our neighbors and people that God brings across my path through His sovereign design. I have distributed several dozen Gospel tracts through casual contact, and have been able to impress upon folks that God loves them. I didn’t find Kareem, but I did meet a lady on the same Laundromat steps last night after church, sitting there in the rain. Her name is Marie. She said that she believes in Jesus Christ as her personal Savior, but that she does not attend church right now. She is about my age and seemed lonely. Will you pray for Marie? I welcomed her to attend our church on Sunday morning or evening. I’d like to introduce her to Anecia.

Two weeks ago I met with two staff leaders with CCO (Coalition for Christian Outreach), a university outreach ministry. They are quite interested in further dialogue about a partnership with us on the many campuses in this great city! On another note, on March 27 I will be meeting with students at Lancaster Bible College. Will you please pray about a potential relationship with CCO, and for my visit at Lancaster Bible College?

Well, as you can see, there is a lot to do – so many people who need the Lord and many opportunities that God is bringing across our paths. Thank you for your prayer support. As you are able, thank you also for your financial support. We are here only because of God and His provision through your financial support for our ministry and this city. Thank you so much!

Blessings,

Kurt and Anecia Miller

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Discipleship

Church Planting, Discipleship, Equipping, Rambling Thoughts, Uncategorized, Urban Ministry

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It is the greatest need in the world today. It is the most fundamental command that Jesus ever gave us. Yet the Church as a whole is not doing it. The Church and the world are suffering greatly today for our disobedience to His command to make disciples. Jesus said in Matt. 28:19, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations.” This verse has been widely misunderstood only to mean evangelizing individuals.

Discipling peoples involves far more than just evangelizing or “getting people saved.” This is an essential first step but it involves so much more. It is not just about planting churches, as critical as this is to the overall process. It involves developing specific strategies and approaches for each community (or even neighborhood in the case of multi-ethnic neighborhoods) that will take into consideration their specific cultural and historical backgrounds and the environment in which they live so that believers within that community are discipled in a culturally relevant way. A one size fits all approach to discipleship will not work.

I believe the Church in the United States is failing to adequately disciple its people both young and old. The unbelief we see in the younger generation is also present in the Church as a whole. It is only becoming more pronounced in each succeeding generation. We must seek to obey the command of Christ to make disciples if we are to succeed in reversing this ominous trend. We must disciple our people so that they not only can defend their faith, but also become cultural change agents as they follow Christ and seek to make disciples of the people around them.

Again, the purpose of discipleship is not just to get people saved and going to heaven. It is to glorify God in all that we do and to show to the world what God is like. Our job as followers of Christ is to be agents of change within our respective cultures. Every people group and every culture on Earth has been impacted by the forces of evil and needs to be transformed by the power of Christ. This societal transformation takes place as people come to faith in Christ and begin to obey His commands to love their neighbors as themselves; by meeting the real needs of people who are suffering and by standing for biblical values as representatives of the King of righteousness; and, by equipping other believers to do the same. Unless we are developing our church, especially our young people, of sound doctrine and solid spiritual disciplines, who are able to defend a biblical worldview and its values and beliefs, we will have nothing to offer the world as pastors and missionaries. Effective discipleship is the essential element in the future of world evangelization.

GENEROSITY: IT DOESN’T COST A PENNY TO PAY IT FORWARD

Church Planting, cities, Equipping, Notable Blogs, Other Authors, Philadelphia, Rambling Thoughts, Uncategorized, Urban Ministry

BY THE JOHN MAXWELL COMPANY.
DECEMBER 30, 2013

When we hear the words “giving” and “generosity” we typically think in terms of financial donations. Yet, as leaders we have far more to offer than money. For example, we can give people access to our personal network, or leverage our influence to help someone else gain an opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have.

In 1792, on a chilly December day in Salzburg, Austria, an unmarried embroiderer gave birth to her third child, a baby boy named Joseph Mohr. The child’s father had deserted the mother immediately upon learning about the pregnancy. The abandoned mother, already short on money, was fined a year’s worth of wages for having conceived a child out of wedlock.

With an absentee father and an impoverished mother, Joseph’s life prospects were dim. This was especially true in the late 18th century, when so-called “illegitimate children” were socially stigmatized. They were routinely denied apprenticeships and educational opportunities.

One place where Joseph felt accepted was at his local church, where he sang in the choir. The cathedral’s vicar, Johan Nepomuk Hiernle, took notice of the boy’s musical talent, and intervened on Joseph’s behalf so that he could receive an education. Joseph did well in school, and he excelled musically, learning to play the guitar, violin, and organ. Eventually, he decided to enroll in seminary.

Joseph’s plans were blocked, however, as his illegitimate birth prevented him from studying for the priesthood. Hiernle again came to his aid, successfully seeking an exemption so that the young man could attend seminary. After completing his studies, Joseph was ordained, and then appointed as priest of a small parish in Oberndorf.

His second year at the church, Joseph scrambled to pull together a concert for Christmas mass. He had written a poem and shared it with a friend whom he asked to compose a melody to go with it. Joseph’s friend obliged, and together they performed the song for the congregation on Christmas Eve. The tune, “Silent Night,” has gone on to become a holiday favorite, popular with churches and carolers almost 200 years later.

Thought to Ponder

If not for a kind-hearted vicar, who generously used his connections to aid a fatherless, underprivileged young boy, “Silent Night” would likely never have been written or sung. In fact, who knows what would have become of Joseph Mohr without the vicar’s support and guidance?

At some point, I’ll bet someone has generously intervened in your life in order to give you a better shot at success. As a way of honoring this person, take a brief moment to comment on the impact their generosity had on you. How might you be able to “pay forward” their generosity?

My November Update

Rambling Thoughts, Uncategorized

November has been a great month of ministry and transition preparation. We started the month with Kurt taking some cabinets that we had from our home in Indiana to our home in Philadelphia. We plan to install them in the basement for added storage. From there, he went to Palmyra, Pennsylvania. Pastor Dan Travis (Palmyra Grace Brethren Church) asked Kurt to speak at their annual Men’s Retreat. He really enjoyed the time with the men at a nice mountainside retreat center. They enjoyed good spiritual conversation, challenging times in the Word, shooting skeet, target practice with pistols and rifles, games and lots of great food. It was a real “guys” kind of retreat!

Kurt came home Sunday evening and we left Monday for Winona Lake, Indiana. He was scheduled to conduct four seminars and meet with two student “life groups”. Two of the seminars and the life groups met late at night; consequently, he did not get home until after 11:00 p.m. most nights that week! Hard for someone who likes to go to bed by 10:00! But, the time spent with the students was sweet and productive as he talked to them about church planting and urban missions. Several students expressed their interest in urban ministry as part of their future aspirations. The week was also nice in that we were able to stay with our daughter, Juli Eckel, and her husband and our three grandsons!

Kurt’s parents live just north of Winona Lake in Goshen, Indiana. While we were there, his Dad had a cardiac event that resulted in his having emergency bypass surgery. The doctors told us that his heart was severely diseased. This surprised all of the family as he appeared to be the epitome of health. The doctor said that he looked much younger than his 83 years, but that his heart was of full age. The surgery went remarkably well and he is now in rehab. We stayed two days longer than we had planned, but did not want to leave until we knew he was well on the way to recovery. We were so glad to be in Indiana at that time. Please pray for Kurt’s Dad, John, and for his mother, Marjorie, as they make adjustments in their life.

This last week of November is being spent catching up on office work packing up our belongings in anticipation of our move to Philadelphia. Please pray for Anecia who bears the bulk of the packing responsibility. Sorting through things, discarding things, packing things; relocating and adjusting to a new home and neighborhood are all stress factors. We both need your prayers as we work through the move and holiday seasons.

Along with your prayers, we are so appreciative for those who have also partnered with us financially. Possibly you are deciding how much and where your special year-end donations will go. Would you please consider a special year-end gift to MetroGrace for our support? You can Give Online through a secure online donation on the MetroGrace website. Click Here to donate online. You can also Give by Check. Please make checks payable to “MetroGrace”, and mail to MetroGrace, 7721 Torresdale Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19136. Please write Miller’s Support on the memo line or include a note indicating that your contribution is intended for our missionary support.

In the midst of all our busy activities, we are looking forward to ministry opportunities with some of our new neighbors. Will you pray for this? We never want to be too busy to hear the prompting voice of the Holy Spirit to speak the Good News of Jesus Christ to those around us, especially during the Thanksgiving and Christmas Seasons!

Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving!
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Celebrating My Deliverance

Rambling Thoughts

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I enjoy visiting my youngest daughter and her family in September. She lives in a predominantly Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish neighborhood in Miami Beach. In September the Jewish faith observes Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles. This year Sukkot begins today, September 18.

For forty years, Jewish ancestors traversed the Sinai Desert, following the Exodus from Egypt. During this period, miraculous “clouds of glory” surrounded and hovered over them, shielding them from the dangers and discomforts of the desert. Ever since, Jews remember God’s kindness and reaffirm their trust in His providence by dwelling in a sukkah–a hut of temporary construction with a roof covering of branches–for the duration of the Sukkot festival. For seven days and nights, traditional Jews eat all their meals in the sukkah and otherwise regard it as their home.

So it is in my daughter’s neighborhood. Small sukkahs have been built in yards, some in the front yard and some in the backyard. For some families the children sleep in them. Meals are taken there. The first two days of this festival are a major holiday, when most forms of work are prohibited. On the preceding nights, women and girls light candles, reciting the appropriate blessings, and they enjoy nightly and daily festive meals.

Celebrations fill their homes with song and dance until the early hours of the morning. The remaining days of the festival most forms of work are permitted. They try to avoid going to work, writing, and certain other activities – many families use this time to enjoy fun family outings. Every day of Sukkot they recite the complete Hallel, Hoshanot, and Musaf, and the Torah is read during the morning service.

I am not Jewish. I am a Christian. But, I enjoy being In Miami Beach this time of year. It reminds me that Jesus Christ is my sukkah, my shelter, shielding me from the dangers and discomforts of the desert. In Him I find my sustenance. He is my light in the darkness. Through Jesus Christ I am one with the Father. I find my rest, my shabbat, in Him. Being in Miami Beach, one block off 41st Street, reminds me to celebrate my exodus from bondage to the world and freedom from the penalty of sin.

Sukkot is also called “The Time of Our Joy!” So, with this Jewish neighborhood, I celebrate my own exodus, my deliverance, my shelter, my Sukkot!

Goodness Trumps Entrepreneurship

Church Planting, Rambling Thoughts

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Most church planters are cut from a similar cloth, the cloth of entrepreneurship. As such, every church planter desires to see his longings fulfilled. In the wisdom of society, the way to sucess is through diligent effort. But, the wisdom of God goes beyond the secular wisdom of relating success to hard work and more fundamentally ties it to the development of a mature, good life as we learn and submit to wise teachers.

The wise Solomon said, “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life. . . Good sense wins favor, but the way of the treacherous is ruin. . . a desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul. . . whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Proverbs 13:14 ff. ESV)

Diligence (hard work) is the fruit of a life that has cultivated goodness. Success follows naturally.

As church-planting entrepreneurs, it is easy to fall into the trap of relying on our natural talents. One of those critical talents is the ability to develop and cast vision. While doing this, we need to be careful that we do not confuse casting vision with manipulation. There is a fine line between casting vision and manipulating people. The crossing of this line is what Solomon calls treacherous. Our teammates, and those we gather around our vision, are best served by our goodness in relationship to them and others.

Our deepest longings for success are fulfilled only by integrity, goodness and wisdom.

The Power of Example

Church Planting, Philadelphia, Rambling Thoughts

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In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin tells of the time he wanted to convince the citizens of Philadelphia to light the streets at night as a protection against crime and as a convenience for evening activities. Failing to convince them by his words, he decided to show his neighbors how compelling a single light could be. He bought an attractive lantern, polished the glass, and placed it on a long bracket that extended from the front of his house. Each evening as darkness descended, he lit the wick. His neighbors soon noticed the warm glow in front of his house. Passersby found that the light helped them to avoid tripping over protruding stones in the roadway. Soon others placed lanterns in front of their homes, and eventually the city recognized the need for having well-lighted streets.

That is the power of example. Samuel Johnson once wrote, “Example is always more effective than teaching.” Albert Schweitzer said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” Children become like parents; students become like teachers—all because of the power of example. Coupled with the Word of God, there may be no greater power on earth to change the behavior of others.

The Apostle Paul undoubtedly knew about this power when he wrote, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1, 2 ESV).

Followers of Jesus are to be imitators of God, to walk in love and to be filled with the Holy Spirit. When we live like this we become powerful examples of Christianity. But this is no ordinary example; no ‘any kind of example.’ No! When Jesus’ followers become light in the darkness, sins are exposed by the shining light and an amazing thing happens: darkness can no longer hide its nature and acts in secret. All is exposed to light. Light that makes everything visible brings an even more radical element.

This is what Paul means in verses 13-14: “But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:1, 2, 13, 14 ESV). Everything that is revealed is (or becomes) light. Light turns darkness into light. This is the church’s mission.

So, I am thinking now about how this applies to church planters, that rare breed of servants who I serve and really love: “How do you go about effectively planting a church?” You deliberately live as imitators of God in your neighborhood. You become known in your neighborhood as men and women of God, thus becoming light in the darkness. As Benjamin Franklin did in Philadelphia, show your neighbors how compelling a single light can be. Your neighbors will soon notice the warm glow coming from your home. In addition to simple example, you will have the supernatural power of the indwelling Holy Spirit whose power will turn the darkness of your neighborhood into light! Church planting is far more about this than it is about forms and functions. So, in your neighborhood, turn your inner light on unashamedly, and see what Jesus does!

What is Your Motivation in Asking for Financial Support?

Church Planting, Rambling Thoughts, Urban Ministry

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Motivation is the driver for getting things done.

If you are a church planter and need to raise all, or part of your financial support, it is crucial to have the right motivator while raising support for your ministry. I’ve coached too many people during my years with Grace Brethren North American Missions whose misdirected motivation set them up to fail.

Near the the end of the Book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul was thanking the Philippians for their generosity, and was rejoicing because of their gift. He says, “Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.” Doesn’t that sound strange? A little counter-intuitive, don’t you think? Paul’s motivation in asking them to give wasn’t that he might live a lavish lifestyle. He desired that their “account” might increase.

If you’ve been a Christian very long, you know that counter-intuitive seems to be a theme in following Him. We must die to live; we must be last to be first, and so on. Raising support for ministry is no different. Your motivation in asking people, churches or organizations to partner with you is to encourage them to give, not for your sake; but, for the edification of the Body, for the glory of Christ and “for the profit which increases to their account.”

When you ask with the right motivator, you can ask unapologetically, with others in mind and convincingly. Remember. . . you are blessed to be a blessing. . .!

Why Have I Been Drawing Attention to Israel?

Church Planting, Philadelphia, Rambling Thoughts, Urban Ministry

If you are one of the many followers of this blog; or, of my Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Linkedin accounts, you might be asking, “Why have you been drawing so much attention to Israel recently; I thought this blog is a Church Planting focused blog? And, you would be right to ask that question. After all, this is a church-planting blog. So, what’s up with this focus on Israel?

Please give me a moment to share a brief testimony. I was raised to love Israel and Jewish people. Early in my church-planting life I planted a church in Florida, in a community that had a high concentration of Reformed Jews. I was privileged to work alongside many Jewish businessmen and women. Some of my dearest friends were Jewish and remain so today. The Rabbi of a very large synagogue and I were fishing buddies. I learned to love him dearly. We were good for each other. I came to realize that God had put us together for a reason. I hope we accomplished all God intended us to do between ourselves. I believe we did.

I have Jewish friends who follow my life and who follow this blog. They know me and my missionary zeal. I believe they know I am not trying to push Jesus down their throats. I think they also know that there is nothing more important to me than to introduce Jesus and His Message to everyone in the world, including Jews. They know that I believe Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Son of God. No surprises there. So, with this minimally transparent background, I come back to the leading question of this post, “Why this seemingly sudden focus on Israel?”

3 reasons:

  • I believe it is my responsibility to bring the Good News about Jesus Christ to Jews.
  • I believe there has been an erosion of concern among many evangelicals toward Israel and Jewish people in general.
  • I believe the timetable toward Jesus’ second coming is rapidly drawing to an end.

    With that in mind, I offer the below article from the May 2013 issue of the “Israel My Glory” magazine. It is so on target, that I especially encourage you who are church planters to read it; but, not just church planters. Christian friend, there are undoubtedly more Jewish people living around you than you realize. I bet that most of them are wonderful people. Why not meet them? Why not become friends? Maybe, as in my case, some will see the love that Jesus has for you?

    For my Jewish friends, please know that I mean no offense to you. I love you dearly. My love for you is my incentive for writing this post.

    Shalom.

    If you cannot read the article below, click here to see it on their website.

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    National Day of Prayer

    Other Authors, Rambling Thoughts

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    Today is the 2013 National Day of Prayer in the United States of America. Below are a list of suggested requests to bring before The Lord on this day (and other days). These were presented to the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, to which I subscribe, by the Chairman of our Social Concerns Committee:

    This is a short list of prayer values for supporting our leaders, securing our liberties, and furthering wholesome standards.

    • In the spirit of 1 Timothy 2:1-2, pray for the president, members of Congress, the Supreme Court, governors and local officials, that they might lead us wisely as God would want them to lead.
    • Pray for the victims of terrorism, in Boston and around the world.
    • Give thanks for the freedoms we enjoy in America, especially religious freedom. May we use these freedoms to further the work of God as well as to enjoy living in America.
    • Pray for challenges to religious freedom in America, especially the power of government to coerce consciences.
    • Pray for people around the world who are persecuted for their religious beliefs and practices.
    • The issue of undocumented immigration is large right now. Pray that the members of Congress will open their hearts and minds to policies that do justice and love mercy.
    • Pray that government at all levels will be responsible in handling the people’s money (tax revenues) and in avoiding deficits that hurt future generations.
    • Pray that an ethic that cherishes the God-given right to life will spread throughout the land.
    • Pray that churches everywhere will strive to bring shalom (peace) to their communities through seeking justice, showing mercy, and walking humbly before God.
    • Pray that the evangelical Christian churches of America will refine our messages and activism so we will be the “salt and light” Jesus calls us to be.


    Donald Shoemaker
    Pastor Emeritus, Grace Community Church of Seal Beach, CA
    Chair, Social Concerns Committee, Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches