This past Sunday, Pastor Mike discussed Harvest: our history, our present, and our future. It was a great message that touched on the roots of our church, our values and what is important here at Harvest [Listen Here]. He briefly introduced the staff (meet them here), talked about the missionaries we support (read more about them here), and went over our 2016 Annual Report. To download a PDF: 2016 Annual Report.
Take a look below at the 2016 Annual Report. It might look like a bunch of numbers, but it is important to remember that every number represents a unique individual with their own story. Here at Harvest, we aren’t about numbers – we are about the people. As a staff and leadership, we are so excited about the upcoming year and what is in store for 2017. To read more about some of our goals, check out this blog post: Welcome 2017!
Recently, on a Saturday, I joined three ladies from our congregation during a morning of service at Adorned in Grace. We only had room for a small group in their back storage area. When we arrived, Dottie from Adorned in Grace, walked us around their showroom and explained what their mission is.
Adorned in Grace is operated under Abolition Now, a Portland Christian non-profit dedicated to efforts against sexual trafficking and care for its victims. They operate on peoples’ generosity alone: the dresses and space are donated, they are staffed with volunteers, renovations were donated to the old building formerly owned by another local church, and their income comes from the sale of the donated items. The organization loves receiving dresses with stories attached to them, it makes it the most fun for them to be bought and used again. They have some dresses that do not sell so they re-purpose them through either saving precious pieces of them or by donating them to the next organization that they collaborate with.
Dottie herself does a lot of the sewing; the robes that brides wear when they are trying on dresses are handmade from old dresses. The love and generosity that goes into and comes out of this organization is wonderful. When we went back to their storage area, we saw a room stuffed with both wedding dresses and prom or bridesmaid dresses. The colorful, often sleeker dresses were being saved for their Dress for Freedom event, a time when girls, especially those in foster care, come in
and have their own day of getting dressed up and just being carefree girls who get to feel great about themselves.
The wedding dresses in this room are where we came in. They were being sent to the next ministry because they had not sold at AiG. We put three or so in a dress bag, zipped it up, and laid it flat. Then on to the next dresses. While doing this we were able to get to know each other better and enjoy using our own basic capabilities to serve.
We have been stressing building community here at Harvest. My husband Kyle and I moved here because of the incredible community he had experienced here when he was an intern. Now we are trying to improve upon that by creating new small groups and trying to convince you that it is worth it. I completely agree. I want each one of you to experience deep Christian community. I want you to cry and laugh together, to offer godly advice and commiserate gently over not quite getting it right, and to see different aspects of God through getting to know more of his people. We each have unique talents and interests, we have different backgrounds, and we each understand God and his kingdom slightly differently. We can learn from each other and become better for it. I hope that you all see this and embrace it. It might be scary at first but it is worth it, I promise.
Here is another way that I propose we build community: Let us go serve together. I am not suggesting this in place of a small group, but rather an additional way to be plugged into to the body of believers. Maybe your small group would want to get involved in a regular service project. This might be putting the cart before the horse, but email me and I can help you get that set up. Maybe you end up loving your small group but want the opportunity to meet more people outside your small group. I (Faith) will be setting up periodic opportunities to serve somewhere that is available to our entire church body; it is a great chance to meet different people.
It is also a great chance to know what is outside our specific gathering of Christians, to meet at these communal places of ministry between regular church gatherings. In addition, after serving together, you get opportunities to meet people and get to know them on a much deeper level. For instance, at Adorned in Grace, we all really enjoyed getting to know each other and what the ministry was a part of and how it operated. It was a precious experience, getting to be in the room with these lovely symbols of such a happy and important day. In the future, I plan to arrange more service projects at Adorned in Grace, My Father’s House, and at the Pregnancy Resource Center. If there is any place that you strongly stand behind or serve on even a semi-regular basis, I want to know and see what we can do with our resources of people here at Harvest.
There are other opportunities besides these! Local ministries constantly need volunteers. Grab a few friends and go serve. I can even point you in the direction of the ones in need. Our Care Ministry has a meal train-grab a few people you want to know better and make a meal for a new mom or a grieving family. Serve a family on your block by bringing over some treats. There are many levels of application for what I am advocating. I think service is another vital part of community, but not exclusively in serving others. Serving with others is a great tool, if only on this level: it’s easier to get to know someone when you are working, when you have something to do to take the awkwardness away?
To start, here at Harvest you will be seeing regular announcements for opportunities to serve. I would love to see an enthusiastic response, both from people who enjoy getting to know each other and from people who just enjoy getting to know and be involved in different ministries. These will be low commitment…a few hours on a Saturday morning or maybe the odd evening. If you have a million things happening in your life, these will hopefully still fit in from time to time. Many of these projects will be a great activity for the whole family! We’d love to see you there.
It often feels like creating an authentic community is a little bit like going to the gym: we see the need, we see the benefit, and it really isn’t difficult to get there and workout. However, when we consider the amount of time and dedication required to see those results and benefits come to fruition, and understand the amount of times we will have to get in the car and go to the gym to workout, the task can become a little daunting.
Whether we realize it or not, we all crave authentic and intimate relationships that can come with a tight knit community of believers, but the long-term Communal life can often be difficult to maintain. That is why, for the small group network here at Harvest, we have come up with a basic structure within which we will frame everything we do.
To the left is a visual representation of how we are approaching the creation of a small group network that sustains itself. At the top is the small group itself, (kind of like an upper room, heh heh heh), supported by what we are calling the 5 Pillars of Community. These principles come straight from the example of Christian community we see in Acts 2:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47
- Fellowship (v. 42-47)
To create a communal life together.
- Study (v. 42)
To gain a greater understanding of scripture and how we are to live out the teachings of Jesus Christ.
- Provision (v. 44-45)
To provide for the needs of one another and live sacrificial lives.
- Worship (v. 47)
To give all glory to God and recognize that Jesus’ ways are superior to our own.
- Evangelism (v. 47)
To invite others to share in the communal life of the small group and the church as a whole.
Within our small groups, everything we do has to fall under one of the 5 Pillars, and we need to make sure that all 5 Pillars are a part of what we do. If we are having a great time of fellowship, but not spending time studying the Word, then our discipleship can suffer. If we invite anyone and everyone to our group, but our fellowship is only skin deep, then those new people may not want to stay.
So, when you join one of our small groups, be on the lookout for how you can contribute to supporting the communal life of Christian fellowship. The truth is, what you put into the group is what you will get out of it. If you want to be a part of the personal, intimate, and authentic community of believers that we see in scripture, this is how we start!
Small Groups Pastor
By Rachel Johnson, Preteen Pastor
There is a famous parable, told by Jesus in Matthew 25, which we know simply as The Sheep and The Goats. In this particular parable, Jesus transports us into the future when he comes again “in all his glory” to sit on his throne. In this scene, all the nations of the earth are gathered together, in front of the throne, and Jesus begins to separate them into two groups – the sheep and the goats.
Jesus places the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. The sheep are blessed by God the Father and given an inheritance, while the goats are cursed into the eternal fire “prepared for the devil and his angels” (v 41). Those on the right are redeemed and saved, and those on the left are cursed and lost. So what was the deciding difference between these two groups? Why are some blessed and others cursed? The answer lies in their actions:
“for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” – Matt. 25:35-36
The ones who are blessed are the ones who lived lives of love and compassion, and it showed in their actions towards the people around them. The ones who are cursed did not act in such a manner, and they are condemned because of it (vv 42-45). This parable shows us that both the righteous and the wicked are affected – in an eternally significant way – by their actions.
It is at this point that we sit up a little bit straighter and think, “But what about grace? Our salvation is a gift offered to us, it isn’t something that can be earned!” The good works (or actions) that the sheep display in the parable are not the cause of salvation but the effect of salvation and the manifestation of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we should act different because we are different!
The Apostle Paul exhorts us in Galatians chapter 5 to “live by the Spirit” and not to “gratify the desires of the flesh” (v 16). The Spirit and the flesh, he goes on to say, are at odds with each other. The flesh desires that which is opposed to the Spirit; it desires sexual immorality, impurity, extravagance, idolization, hatreds, conflict, jealousy, anger, disagreements, rebellions, divisions, bitterness, drunkenness, and riotous behavior (vv 19-21). The Spirit desires that which is opposed to the flesh; it desires love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (vv 22-24).
What we do matters. As Christians we are to become like Christ, we act as ambassadors to the world on behalf of Christ. When the world looks at us, they should see sheep. They should see people who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger and the foreigner, clothe and care for the sick and needy, and show compassion for those who have fallen so far as to wind up in prison. Faith and worship are not exclusive to an hour on a Sunday morning – they should be evident in every aspect of our lives.
A.W. Tozer has this to say:
“Remember, there is no magic in faith or in names. You can name the name of Jesus a thousand times; but if you will not follow the nature of Jesus the name of Jesus will not mean anything to you. We cannot worship God and live after our own nature. It is when God’s nature and our nature begin to harmonize that the power of the name of God begins to operate within us…We cannot pray in love and live in hate and still think we are worshiping God…
God won’t dwell in spiteful thoughts, polluted thoughts, lustful thoughts, covetous thoughts or prideful thoughts. He will only dwell in meek, pure, charitable, clean and loving thoughts…Make your thoughts a sanctuary God can inhabit, and don’t let any of the rest of your life dishonor God. See to it that not a foot of ground is unholy. See to it that every hour and every place is given over to God, and you will worship Him and He will accept it.”
The fleshy desires of our hearts need to be overridden by the desires of the Spirit. These changes may begin inward, but they will ultimately ripple out into the world and to the people around us. Our lives are a testimony of who we serve. Do our lives serve to further sin and death, or do we live to serve in obedience to Christ who leads us to righteousness? In Christ, we are free – not free to sin or to live in hate or selfishness, we are instead free FROM living in such a way.
So let us live lives of compassion and love. Let us not be afraid to do good and to stand for what is right. “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7). Let us go bravely forward into the world as God’s representatives, to be His hands and feet and to continue the work that Jesus began while he was here on earth. Let us pray, daily, that God’s will be done here on earth, as it is in heaven. For the Kingdom of God is near.
 Excerpts selected from Tozer on Worship and Entertainment, by A.W. Tozer and compiled by James L. Snyder. Wing Spread Publishers, 2006
My name is Kyle Fox, and I have recently come on board at Harvest as the Pastor of Small Groups. If you don’t know who I am, let me give you some info about myself. I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, and moved to Joplin Missouri at 18 to begin school at Ozark Christian College (OCC). During my time completing my degree, I came up to Troutdale and was an intern at Harvest for about 18 months, mostly working with the youth ministry. I graduated from OCC with a Bachelor’s degree in Youth Ministry, and spent a few more years in Missouri. In May of 2016, my wife, Faith, and I were married. We moved to Gresham a month later, and we love living here.
When I have visited Oregon after finishing my internship, and since my wife and I moved back, I have often had conversations with people about the state of Harvest and what steps they felt could be taken to create a stronger congregation and ministry to the community. The answer I received on several occasions was something in the realm of the small group ministry. While there was a great base level of groups that met, it seemed as though the church had the opportunity to expand the network of small groups and to give more people the opportunity to dive into the communal life displayed to us by Jesus and the early church. This was only compounded after the move to the new building and the rapid growth of the congregation.
That is where I come in. My job is to get into the nitty-gritty of forming a network of small groups. To find those interested in the fellowship, study, provision, worship, and evangelism (more on those next time) that are central to living in communion with other believers, and providing the resources to be able to do so. I’ve been in contact with pastors from around the area to gain their insight into the topic and have been reading a few books to learn about some of the most successful small group ministries have accomplished what they have. I am extremely excited to begin this next step in the story of Harvest and the members of the church that gather here.
However, all the planning and resources in the world wouldn’t do us any good if you are not on board and willing to be a part of what is happening. So here is my blog post challenge (that’s a thing, right?) to you: Become a part of a small group. To decide whether or not this is something you want to do, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Are you living a life that reflects the community that Jesus modeled and the apostles carried on in the book of Acts?
- Are you striving to see your Christianity go beyond a Sunday morning service each week?
- Are you doing enough to fulfill the basic human need for connection and authenticity that we all have?
If your answers to these questions left you wanting more, I strongly encourage you to become part of what we are starting here at Harvest. I firmly believe that this is the start of something big.