MCMA INTERCOM  2021 - Present

The quarterly newsletter of the association that shares an important editorial on church ministry and the latest about MCMA activities.

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IT’S TIME TO REVIVE THE BLESSING!!!

1st Trimester 2021         Minnesota Church Ministries Association          Vol. 25 – No. 1


It has been 35 years since John Trent and Gary Smalley treated the Christian world to the concepts contained in the book entitled, The Blessing.  These principles of sharing love and grace with others, based on the Old Testament practice of offering a blessing are critically important to us in this season following the pandemic we have just experienced.  To give a cursory review, the 5 elements of The Blessing include:

1.  Meaningful touch.

2.  A spoken message of love and acceptance.

3.  Attaching “high value” to the person being blessed.

4.  Picturing a special future for that person.

5.  An active commitment to fulfill the blessing.

 

Throughout the past year, we have been touch-deprived in the Christian community.  We have been warned not to shake hands and hug.  We have kept our social distance.  We have suffered greatly from not feeling the warmth that brothers and sisters usually extend to one another.  For our own emotional health, we need that touch restored and even intensified!

Communication has been hampered in this past season because of the masks that have muffled our expressions.  Having a meaningful conversation that declares our love and acceptance has become a tougher task.  To clearly convey just how valuable the other person is in your estimation gets muddled by the stifling of your voice and the shrouding of your smile.

The special future we envision for those we would wish to bless has even been called into question by the pronouncements of the experts who paint a dark picture of what to expect in the days ahead.  A very real fear has gripped many that there is no bright future…only one of successive battles against future viruses or variants that arise.

Ongoing commitments to those we wish to bless are somehow dampened because we don’t know what our future opportunities will be to participate to fulfill the blessing.  Enough doubt about the future has been planted in people’s minds that they hesitate in any kind of commitment…even in something as simple as meeting up for breakfast or lunch…let alone any kind of ongoing promise of support and deepening relationship.

From all of these dynamics we need to be delivered.  I am praying now for the lifting of mask mandates, especially in the wake of widespread vaccinations.  I am also encouraging my fellow brothers and sisters to rise up in faith and recognize that the de-personalization of the last year cannot continue.  We need to reach out and physically touch others, graciously communicate our love and belief in them and their futures, and endeavor to be a significant ongoing presence in their lives to be a continual blessing to them as we commit ourselves to walk together.

People of faith must be the ones to lift the entire society out of this state of suspended animation to do what God has called us to do in the season ahead.  May God give us the faith and boldness to pursue lives that pass on The Blessing to others!

Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director

 


YOU HAVE RELIEF FOR THE DOG DAYS!

 

2nd Trimester 2021         Minnesota Church Ministries Association          Vol. 25 – No. 2


The Dog Days of Summer, according to the experts is described like this…Dog Days traditionally refers to a period of particularly hot and humid weather occurring during the summer months of July and August in the Northern Hemisphere. In ancient Greece and Rome, the Dog Days were believed to be a time of drought, bad luck, and unrest, when dogs and men alike would be driven mad by the extreme heat.

 

I am sure that most of us in Minnesota would agree that we have been passing through the Dog Daysin recent weeks.  This period certainly will pass as such weather phenomena always do.  But it could be argued that right now we are experiencing Dog Daysin a number of ways.

 

Political unrest, international instability, economic unpredictability, rising crime, and even in the church a lack of confidence about the future…all point to uncomfortable realities.  We are living in challenging days which can even take a toll on us spiritually and emotionally.

 

It is in just such an environment that the Church of Jesus Christ can do her best work.  Just think of what we offer to people through these days:

 

1.  THE GOSPEL ITSELF.  The message of grace, forgiveness, and new life in a relationship with Jesus that the Church offers gives hope, confidence, and assurance during times of stress…whether they be personal, corporate, national, or international.  For literally thousands of years, we have heard personal testimonies of how Jesus has made the difference for people spiritually and emotionally.

 

2.  THE WORD.  The perspective that those who are tutored by the truth of Scripture and nourished by the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit sustains them as they move through difficulties.  When the great story of the Bible is unveiled to us, we recognize that what we are facing today is in many ways similar to what faithful people have experienced in the past….and in fact may be less stressful than some things they lived through by the power of God.

 

3.  THE BODY.  The encouragement that comes from the body of believers enables the individual to rise above immediate challenges.  Relationships within the Church at times can be strained and even cruel…yet on balance, having a group of people who are called to be a source of love and grace is a huge benefit.  The relationships one can experience and enjoy over a lifetime become a lifesaver to those who are part of the church.

 

Our Association aims to strengthen these expressions of ministry that are regular features of the local church.  May God make us all more and more effective in our own assemblies in helping people through the Dog Days they encounter!

Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director

A TIME FOR PATIENCE & PERSISTENCE!

3rd Trimester 2021         Minnesota Church Ministries Association          Vol. 25 – No. 3


As we move further through the pandemic that we have been enduring, many church leaders are posing serious questions about the future of the Church…not just about their individual congregations, but the Body of Christ across the whole country and beyond.

 

Attendance continues to be sluggish in many places, leaders are not sure who is with them or who has fled to another fellowship, or if online streaming will be the permanent choice people will make as opposed to in-person worship.

 

I want to give a word of encouragement and challenge to you that can give perspective:

 

1.  JESUS SAID I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH!  We must take courage in the fact that Christ is the Lord of the Church and he is out in front of us even when we don’t feel it from week to week.  His sovereign leadership is already being seen if you look close!  Open your eyes to what God is already doing!

 

2.  ROME WAS NOT REBUILT IN A DAY!!!  The unsettling nature of the last two years in church life will not be overcome immediately.  The fruit of the Spirit of patience is in order.  God will make all things beautiful in His time.

 

3.  PERSISTENCE IN THE RIGHT THINGS needs to be our daily commitment.  In the long run, people will respond to love, to the gospel, to the word, to personal touches, to consistent character…and we must continue in the things we know are fundamentally necessary in church work.  The words of Calvin Coolidge should be taken to heart:  Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.  These words which apply to any human endeavor take on special meaning when we know we are in partnership with an Almighty God who enables our persistence to bear fruit.

 

May God give you a new sense of empowerment and anticipation as you recognize His primary leadership in the Church and your responsibility to remain patient and persistent in the work you have been called to do.

 

Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director


RESCUING US FROM HERESY


4th Quarter 2022         Minnesota Church Ministries Association         Vol. 26 – No. 4

 

Evangelicals have historically been committed to a belief in the inerrancy and inspiration of the Scriptures as a foundation stone to truth and life.  A recent survey by Ligonier Ministries revealed the following statistics regarding confessing Evangelical believers that seem to shake that foundation:

 

w 48% of Evangelicals believe that God changes…that he learns and adapts over time, only 43% believe He does not change.

w 71% of Evangelicals reject the doctrine of original sin; only 21% hold to it.

w 36% of Evangelicals believe that church membership matters; 56% do not.

w 43% of Evangelicals reject he deity of Christ.

w 38% of Evangelicals believe that the Christian faith is personal, not objective truth.

w 37% believe that gender identity is a matter of choice.

w 28% believe that the biblical condemnation of homosexuality does not apply today.

 

The knee-jerk reaction to such surveys is, Who actually responded to this survey?  Are these self-identified evangelicals really Christ followers and believers in the Word of God?  And yet, these results are disquieting to us and should perhaps give rise to some introspection.  How well are we doing in communicating biblical truth in our generation?

 

Let me suggest an antidote to these trends in thinking among the general Evangelical population:

 

1.  A Recommitment to Biblical Inerrancy.  As leaders we must strongly reaffirm our belief in the Bible as the source of truth we lean upon.

2.  A Re-Emphasis on Historic Doctrine.  Reacquaint the people with key doctrinal commitments…either based on your own Church’s statement of faith or on one or another of the historic confessions.

3.  A Re-Strategizing Regarding Adult Education.  A return to more comprehensive teaching to larger groups of adults in regular classes may need to be pursued to give guidance to as great a number of adults as possible.

 

It seems that the current quality of preaching, teaching, and small group activity is not producing biblically sound Christian disciples.  May God help us do what is necessary to rescue our people from heresy!

Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director

 

THIS WEEK’S MINISTRY WILL LAST FOREVER!


3rd Quarter 2022         Minnesota Church Ministries Association         Vol. 26 – No. 3


In most of our churches we find ourselves wondering if what we are doing is really having an impact.  Are people’s lives really being change?  Are we filling the spiritual void around us in any meaningful way?

 

Once in a awhile, God gives us a glimpse of hope regarding what is happening…but many times that is only in retrospect, looking back on ministry that took place years ago.  The other night those of us who were a part of the fellowship of Central Free Church in Minneapolis, which went out of organizational existence back in 2003 gathered for a reunion just to refresh our connections.  It was a wonderful evening.

 

Although we all showed twenty years of aging, there was an instant heart to heart bond we all shared as we fellowshipped together. We were back together in the same building where we all served together, worshipped together, raised our kids together, benefited from clear teaching and preaching from the word of God, and shared in each other’s lives.

 

Individuals testified in conversation how their faith grew through their years in that place; how their gifts were developed for the benefit of church ministry and personal careers in that place; how they were glad that their children got their start in church involvement in that place; how the relationships forged in that place are still some of the most meaningful in their lives.

 

As we were all connected there 20+ years ago, there were times when we were not sure of the impact that ministry was having.  Looking back on it now, we see just how much God was accomplishing through faithful and consistent efforts over many years…even though the attendance in there was on a gradual downward slope.

 

This reunion experience should encourage all of us!  What we are doing this week in ministry, when it is well done and well-motivated, will have a lasting impact both in time and eternity.  No matter whether your church is growing or shrinking…what you do THIS WEEK can have positive results 20 years from now.

 

Remember this as you start another school year of ministry where you are. Jesus said, “I will build my church!”  The church is being built in the lives and ministries of all His people where true believers, the Word, and the Spirit reside.  Take courage and praise God for what is happening where you are!

 

Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director


OVERCOMING THE BIG LIES!


2nd Quarter 2022         Minnesota Church Ministries Association         Vol. 26 – No. 2

 

In a movie of yesteryear, Groucho Marx was caught by his wife with another woman and posed that famous question: “Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?”  Nazi propaganda minister Goebbels cynically admitted that if you repeat a big lie long enough everyone will believe it.  And today we are being asked by politicians to listen to their unrelenting spin on almost any issue that often denies the realities that are plain to see.

 

In spiritual and ministry terms, there are several big lies that are often repeated that we must be ready to resist.  Consider these:

 

1.  You as an individual are trapped by forces beyond your control.  A wide of range of environmental, genetic, and sociological conditions supposedly hold us in their grip and we are unable to work our way out of it.  The Apostle Paul made it clear even in facing the ups and downs of life that he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him.  We are not victims; we are more than conquerors!

 

2.  Faith is for weaklings.  We are told, like Governor Jesse Ventura once explained, “organized religion is a sham and crutch for weak-minded people who find strength in numbers.”  That may be a natural response from a would-be hot-shot professional wrestler.  But true faith in God has been testified to by people of great strength in all pursuits of life.  Presidents, kings, law-makers, educators, scientists, business people, and millions of common people with uncommon strength point to the empowerment that faith offers them.

 

3.  The ministry of the Church is having no impact.  Statistics are offered to show how involvement in Church is on the decline and that aggregate impact of the church is negligible in society.  The only way to prove just how much impact Christians are having to have them all extracted from society at once! In point of fact, most of what is good, positive, and redemptive springs from the inner core of Christian teaching and understanding.  Christians who truly embrace a worldview that is based on biblical teaching live lives that lift the morale of the society around them and are, as Jesus said, the salt of the earth that preserves and enhances everything and everyone they touch.

 

Don’t give it to the big lies that are being broadcast in our day.  Trust the Spirit of God and His Word to do their work and make the Big Lies inoperative in our eyes and the rest of the world.

 

Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director

 


BUILDING RELATIONAL FOUNDATIONS


1st Quarter 2022         Minnesota Church Ministries Association         Vol. 26 – No. 1


All ministry is relational.  The primary relationship, of course is with God Himself through Jesus Christ.  That vertical relationship is complemented by the horizontal relationships within the Church and community.  As leaders in the church, we must take three dimensions of responsibility seriously in order to develop relational ministry in our congregations:

 

1.  WE MUST BE MODELS.  People look to us for direction on to how to build relationships.  They need to see us as strong leaders in our families; as those open to new friendships; and as growing in our people skills.  This will be communicated in our preaching and teaching, in personal conversation with individuals, and in how we develop connections even on boards and committees.  Deeping relational connections between the key leaders of the church will help to set a positive pace for the entire Church.

 

2.  WE MUST BE MATCH-MAKERS.  Within the congregation, as leaders we need to be constantly working at matching people up to develop new friendships and connections.  Finding people with similar interests who can enjoy fellowship both informally as well as in organized small groups will foster warm friendships.  Getting people together to share meals in both individual homes and in larger settings at church will be also give rise to new relationships. 

 

3.  WE MUST BE MOBILIZERS.  As the congregation moves out from the worship and fellowship they enjoy at the church, they need to be challenged to be forging new connections in the homes and communities in order to be obedient to the Great Commission.  With every person that is encountered each day, individual believers have the opportunity to reach out, touch, love, and positively impact others as friendships and family connections are deepened.  Leaders must constantly be reminding people of the need for intentional personal outreach in order for the mission of the Church to be realized.

 

The sociologists tell us these days that Americans are becoming more and more isolated, lonely, and disconnected from community.  The Church is uniquely positioned to meet this need as believers are equipped and commissioned to move out with the love and grace of Jesus in deeper relationships in the Church, home, and community.

Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director