Missions: from a weekend to a lifetime

Missions Conference bannerOur church, Mitchell Road Presbyterian, hosted its annual Missions Conference at the end of February. On the calendar, the conference was simply a weekend event, and in person, it would have been easy to put the missionaries in the spotlight. However, as our pastor, Andy Lewis, and Dr. Richard Pratt reminded us, the primary purpose of this conference was not to elevate the work of missionaries in foreign lands; instead, the purpose was to encourage and charge the hundreds of church members here to be missionaries in the places God has placed them. Dr. Pratt showed us that God makes his purpose and mission for mankind known beginning in the first verses of Genesis. We are each charged to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it,” to be a blessing to all the earth because God has blessed us, and to seek God’s “kingdom come, [his] will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Gen 1:28, 12:1-3, Matt 6-9-10).

When we realize that God has a specific purpose for each of us, it has huge implications for our lives: how we spend our free time and money, how we work, how we raise our families. It also frees us to use our blessings of personality, spiritual gifts, money, time, and talents not to make much of ourselves but to bless others. And the greatest blessing we can give others--our friends, neighbors, relatives, co-workers, teammates, and people in foreign lands--is a relationship with the one true God that loves them and gives them a purpose in life.

Listen to all three of Dr. Pratt’s talks here.

- Drew Bryan

The pleasure of being known by God

Tony ministryThis semester, I'm studying Knowing God by J.I. Packer with one of the Bible studies I help lead. Each week we look at a couple chapters from the book and spend time discussing what it means to know God rather than simply know about God. This has been one of the times I most look forward to in my week, because I’m constantly reminded what a privilege and pleasure it is to know God. It’s been amazing to walk with these guys and meditate on the fact that we were made to know God; that eternal life is knowing God (John 17:3)l; that the greatest joy, pleasure, and contentment in life is knowing God (Jeremiah 9:23-24); and that God's greatest delight is giving us a knowledge of Himself (Hosea 6:6). It's such a delight to my heart to think that my knowledge of God is simply a matter of his grace. I don’t make friends with God but he makes me his friend. I know him by faith because he first called me by grace. God looked on me from eternity past and foresaw all my struggles, shortcomings, and sins but still said, “I want him; I’m willing to send my Son to have him in my family.” So then what matters supremely is not the fact that I know God but the greater fact that He knows me. My name is graven on his hands. I am never out of his mind. My knowledge of him depends solely on his sustained initiative in knowing me. I know him because he first knew me, and he continues to know me, love me, count me as his friend. His care for me never falters.

- Emmett Richardson

The Power of God's Word

Hebrews 4:12This past weekend I shared a story with a friend at church about a freshman whom Chris had lead to faith. The Christian faith is not based upon works; therefore, when someone becomes a Christian I don’t want to give them a list of things to do. That is counter to the gospel that we preach, so what do we do? We must expose them to the word of God. After hearing the story, my friend pointed out another story in Judges chapter three that teaches us this exact principle. 15 Then the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, and the LORD raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. The people of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab. 16 And Ehud made for himself a sword with two edges, a cubit in length, and he bound it on his right thigh under his clothes. 17 And he presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab. Now Eglon was a very fat man. 18 And when Ehud had finished presenting the tribute, he sent away the people who carried the tribute. 19 But he himself turned at the idols near Gilgal and said, “I have a secret message for you, O king.” And he commanded, “Silence.” And all his attendants went out from his presence. 20 And Ehud came to him as he was sitting alone in his cool roof chamber. And Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you.” And he arose from his seat. 21 And Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly. 22 And the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not pull the sword out of his belly; and the dung came out. 23 Then Ehud went out into the porch and closed the doors of the roof chamber behind him and locked them.

The sword that Ehud makes represents the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12). Just as Ehud sticks the sword in Eglon and leaves it, we are to put the Word of God into the people we are around and leave it. Upon doing so the dung (representing sin) will come out. I am thankful for this passage because it shows me what is required of me. I must expose people to the Word and let it work, just like the farmer in Mark 4:26-29 who scatters seed on the ground and in a couple days finds that the seed has grown, even though he doesn’t know exactly how.

- Andrew Hawkins

Spoiled

Tony ministryGod blesses me, a lot; I’m basically spoiled. First of all, God chose me to be in His family when I certainly wasn’t looking for Him. I now possess all of His eternal promises, which is enough. However, I still struggle to be a good steward of God’s blessings, falling into patterns of living for myself or the moment that I’m in. God’s response is to love me anyways. At this stage of my life, He has me on staff with Campus Outreach. In just over five months on staff, I have already seen multiple students come to know the Lord, go through radical life change, and grow abundantly in their relationship with Christ. And I get to be a part of this? Someone asked me recently, “Tony, what is your dream job?” I opened my mouth to answer but nothing came out. I then hesitated, if I could do anything with my life right now, what would it be? I was stumped. I couldn’t think of anything I would rather be doing. Honestly, living in rural South Carolina isn’t ideal for me at all; it’s one of the last places I would ever choose to live. But what I’m doing here has me hooked. People are literally going from spiritual death to life right in front of me. People are finding endless joy in Christ right in front of my eyes. So often I have had plans for how I want to help a specific student know more of Christ and the steps that I want them to take to get there, but before I can help them take those steps, the student comes to me and enthusiastically tells me about what they are doing to know more of Christ in much bigger and bolder ways than I had dreamed! I didn’t encourage them to take those steps, my God compelled them.

I’m in a small town, seeing small numbers of students impacted by what the Lord is doing, yet there is nothing bigger happening in the world than people experiencing more of Jesus Christ. And God has chosen to put me in a place where I get be a part of it. I didn’t do anything to deserve this at all. I haven’t lived up to any of God’s standards. I don’t have any accolades that are worthy in God’s Kingdom. I don’t have any right to be here, yet here I am. My God likes to spoil me.

- Tony Ronco

JAX 2013

From December 27-31, 650 college students from 25 campuses across the southeast flocked to Jacksonville, FL, for 5 days and 4 nights of what we call the JAX 2013 Conference. These students took time out from their Christmas Break to enjoy teaching, worship, fun, and friendship together with others from their campuses. The conference is designed to help students at all stages of a relationship with God from those who have just begun investigating Jesus over the past semester to those who are desiring to learn how to minister to others. The theme of the conference centered around the idea of “think big, start small, and go deep.” We chose this because it is what we see God calling Christians to do with their life and because it is the desired focus of our Campus Outreach ministries on the campus. Keynote speakers Leonce Crump and Randy Pope first challenged us not to be afraid to think and dream big with God in our lives and with what God could do through our lives. Secondly, they showed us how small steps of obedience in walking with God and reaching out to others can result in lives of fruitfulness. Lastly, they encouraged us to go deep in our relationship with God and in relationships with others by investing in things that matter.

Outside of our big rallies, we enjoyed seminars on topics like healthy relationships, leadership, freedom in Christ, prayer, and knowing God’s will. We also spent plenty of time having fun through basketball and dodgeball tournaments, exploring the city, a hip hop concert, and a crazy dance party.

As a staff member who spends much of his year planning such a huge event, it was rewarding to read some student evaluations on what they took away from their week:

-That God is great, and by accepting him, I am not losing anything but gaining everything. -We are here to know Him and make Him known. -The fact that we are not obligated to do anything to try and please The Lord in order to acquire his approval. -Community is imperative for spiritual growth. -I learned a lot about witnessing and starting small, because starting small is what it takes to invest in someone's spiritual life. -I'm motivated even more to disciple to people, something I was nervous about before.

Praise God for another fruitful and glorifying conference! Here is a video recap and a link to resources from the conference: www.jax2013.com

- Mike Meisenheimer