By Pastor Stacey
ECC has been journeying down the Vitality Pathway toward becoming a more healthy missional church for almost three years now. When it’s all said and done, frankly, I believe we might be a poster child for the process and the impact it can have on a local congregation. I think we have seen such fruit along this pathway because of the quality of people who have led us and due to our growing sensitivity and responsiveness to the leading of the Holy Spirit. But I believe we can do even better!
One of the things I continue to discover about myself and my own leadership abilities is that there is always more to learn and there are always new areas of growth to be discovered. When we (ECC) took part in the Pulse Assessment in the spring of 2018, for example, one of the lowest Healthy Missional Markers (HMM) was A Culture of Godly Leadership. In fact, it was the second lowest of the ten markers for us. A culture of godly leadership is described as:
Based on the process so far and the growth I have personally witnessed in our people, I believe that when the time comes to take the Pulse Assessment again, our score on this HMM will rise significantly. However, there is still (always) work to be done. And, thankfully, we are a part of a denomination and a conference within that denomination that desire to serve us in this area. In response to the third bullet point above, the Central Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church has invited us and other churches in our conference to take part in the L.E.A.D. Workshop, which will be held here on ECC’s campus on Saturday, November 16, from 9:00am-2:00pm. L.E.A.D. stands for Lay Leaders Equipping And Developing, and on that day lay leaders from ECC and other churches nearby will come together to learn to lead better. I am personally very excited about the impact this workshop can have on our leaders and I hope you will join us!
The workshop will be interactive, practical, and biblically-based, and will address the topics identified in a survey sent to church leaders and pastors last year. Together we will engage in conversation and learning around reframing our mission, vision, and health as congregations and as individual leaders, using two excellent resources: Emotionally Healthy Leaders, by Pete Scazzaro and Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times, by Peter Stienke. We will also be introduced to an online toolbox for further learning and growth beyond the workshop. The cost for the workshop is $10, which will include a working lunch and all the materials we need. We have already had several from ECC sign up, and I hope you will consider doing so, as well. Please CLICK HERE TO REGISTER. When you go to the registration page, make sure you scroll down and click the November 16 workshop at ECC, as there are several options. Finally, please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have any further questions.
ith this week’s sermon and eletter article, we enter into our third and final Touchstone: Welcome. We’ve saved Welcome for last as it is, potentially, the most challenging of the three. Why might it be more challenging? Because, it’s one thing to encounter broken and messy people in our neighborhoods, homes, workplaces, and schools. It’s another thing to welcome them into our community to join us in our journey toward Christoformity and Presence.
We desire to be hospitable because, first and foremost, that is the character of God. God loves foreigners and gives them food and clothing (Deuteronomy 10.18). Furthermore, God’s gracious and hospitable character is displayed in Jesus’ parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14.15-24), where those least likely to be invited are welcomed to the feast that represents the final and full coming of the Kingdom of God.
Likewise, the Apostle Paul exhorts us to “practice hospitality” (Romans 12.13), and the closing verses of Hebrews exhort us to “show hospitality to strangers” (13.2). In fact, the Greek word we translate as “hospitality” is literally two words put together meaning “love of strangers”. Furthermore, Paul exhorts us to “do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6.10).
In one of Jesus’ most provocative parables, he warned us, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14.12-14) And we dare not forget the account of the “sheep and the goats” in Matthew 25.31-46. There we are taught that to invite a stranger into our home is to invite Jesus. Is there any image more challenging concerning our calling to welcome others than the image of Jesus in what Mother Teresa called his “distressing disguise”?
In addition to welcoming the last, the least, and the lost, in Romans 15.7, Paul reminds us, “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (ESV) There, more specifically, God speaks to those of us who know Christ welcoming one another, as sisters and brothers in Christ. We are to welcome those from outside of the community of faith as well as those who are already a part of our community.
Because God is hospitable and Jesus lifts hospitality up as a key virtue, we practice hospitality towards all people, wherever they may be on their journey of faith, and however they may find their way to our doors.
We become a more welcoming congregation when we receive into worship and community those who are most like us and those who are “other” than us: as we engage in ministry with and to the emerging young adult population and the people of the Bauer/Miller neighborhood; as we grow in our ethnic diversity; as we remain open to challenging, but important conversations on topics relevant to our community (race, LGBTQ, immigration, etc.); and we welcome one another and pursue healthy relationships as sisters and brothers in Christ with those who are already a part of our ECC community.
So much of the division that characterizes our nation these days has crept into the larger Church and damaged our mission and witness. Even so, we believe it is possible to become a community of people who are able to differ with one another while being gracious and loving toward one another, as well. And so we desire to be a place of hospitality, grace, and community for all people.
Our denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church, has as one of its distinct markers the affirmation of women as called and gifted for every area of ministry in the church, in the marketplace, in the community, and at home. The Covenant has welcomed Marilyn Williams as the new director of women’s initiatives. She has a recast vision of ministry focused on fostering the flourishing of women, clergy and lay, across all mission priorities and in local churches.
The five mission priorities of the Evangelical Covenant Church are:
Each of these mission priorities will develop intentional pathways for women to flourish in their God-given contexts and calls. Highlighted in the list below are a number of new initiatives the Covenant has committed to:
John Wenrich, the president of the Covenant denomination, said recently, “I believe we are on the cutting edge of ministering well with and for women today.” Find more information about this vision here.
By Ronda Ooms
It’s October! Can you believe it? The leaves are beginning to change colors, and the weather is turning a bit cooler! I love this time of year and the changes that it brings - God’s handiwork at its best!
Fall has many fun traditions, and one of them here at ECC is Trunk or Treat. This year on Wednesday, October 30, our campus will be filled with the sound of laughter, children dressed up in awesome costumes and lots of activity! Families from ECC and around the community will come to enjoy some great food and fellowship and a time for their children to trick or treat.
This event is a great way for you to invite family and friends that may not feel comfortable in the church environment on a Sunday morning. What a fun, nonthreatening way to introduce someone to ECC! Meet them here and help them feel welcome. Knowing that there’s a least one friendly face that they will recognize will be comforting to your guest.
Each year, we invite our Afterschool JAM families to this event, and they have such a fun time! They have already been asking about it, because this event is one of the highlights of the year for them! Over the past couple of years, when we have invited our Afterschool JAM children there have been multiple children that have not had costumes. I have felt so bad when a parent has said to me, “I don’t get paid until after Trunk or Treat, and my child doesn’t have a costume. Are they still able to come?” We want every child to have the opportunity to be a part of Trunk or Treat and to feel comfortable. Most children want to be able to dress up and have fun! Do you have costumes your child has outgrown? Maybe you’d even pray about going to Walmart and purchasing one to donate. Either way, I know that the parents would be SO grateful for the help. Simply bring the costume(s) to the church office and we’ll be sure they are made available to children who may need them.
This event has brought over 800 people to our campus over the past few years. We could use your help in a couple of additional ways to help this year’s Trunk or Treat be even better than years past. Please consider decorating a car. It doesn't matter if it is elaborate or simple. Or simply commit to have your car in our parking lot and hand out candy if you aren’t up to decorating it. Our goal is to have between 25 and 40 cars. We can also use donations of candy for the people to pass out. The last couple of years we have run out of candy so we need LOTS of donations! If you are unable to purchase candy yourself, we welcome financial donations and someone else will be happy to buy it for you.
Whether you can attend the night of Trunk or Treat or not, you can be a part of this outreach event. Costumes, trunks or candy - which area(s) can you help us with? Sign up here and be a part of the fun! You will be blessed as you are a blessing! Please call the church office at 765-474-4842 with any questions.
By Pastor Stacey
On Sunday we began week five of our 10-week exploration of three Touchstones that will shape the future of our mission and vision at ECC. As a reminder, a touchstone was a piece of flint-like, black stone used to determine the quality of gold and other precious metals by examining the color of the mark left when the metal was scratched against it. Since then, its meaning has evolved to refer to a criterion by which we measure the genuineness of something, or, probably most helpful for our purposes, a touchstone is “a fundamental or quintessential part or feature” of something. Our three ECC Touchstones are Welcome, Transformation, and Presence. This week, we begin to look at Transformation.
In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he teaches us that outward acts of piety are not enough. We must become the kind of people whose righteousness goes beyond that of the religious elite (Matthew 5.20). In doing so, we “yoke” ourselves with Jesus and discover that being conformed to the image and character of Christ is not a burden, but is “easy” and “light” (Matthew 11.28-30). We submit to the yoke of Christ and the Spirit of God, and we are transformed.
We acknowledge that Transformation is important because God desires that Christ be formed in us (Galatians 4.19) and that we be “conformed to the image of Christ” (Romans 8.29). As the Apostle Paul puts it in elsewhere, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory…” (2 Corinthians 3.18). Likewise, our destiny as followers of Christ is to become “like him,” for one day “we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3.2). This is where God in Christ is taking all things. Christoformity – having the character of Christ formed in us – is the goal of our transformation.
I have taken the word “Christoformity” from scholar Scot McKnight of Northern Baptist Theological Seminary (formerly of North Park University in Chicago). He, in turn, borrowed it from one of his professors when he was doing his PhD work in England. Other words that overlap this concept of Christoformity are: transformation, Christlikeness, and discipleship. But I like Christoformity because of its strangeness – we have to stop and consider what it means; we can’t just read right past it. To become a Christoform person is to become a person who is shaped, formed, and filled with the character and nature of Christ Jesus. It is to become the “little Christs” CS Lewis speaks of when he says, “Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.” In my understanding, it is the primary responsibility of a pastor to nurture a culture that nourishes his or her people in the direction of Christoformity.
Because God desires that Christ is formed within us, and Jesus teaches us a new way of life, we seek to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in helping one another follow him in our journey toward Christoformity. What we do in worship each Sunday, and in our classrooms and ministry with children, youth, and adults, is all aimed at spiritual formation. It is the goal of our retreats and special events, our Bible studies and our Community Gathering options for Christian formation, to list a few.
Our commitment to transformation is found in our intent to engage spiritual formation practices as a community and as individuals. We desire to provide resources and relationships for the journey from curiosity to Christoformity.