The State of the Church: 2017 Annual Report
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 our Executive and Elder Board, and went over our 2017 Annual Report. To download a PDF: Annual Report 2017.
Take a look below at the 2017 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 2018.
For this week’s study, we are doing something a little different. Instead of going further into the texts used in this week’s Sunday morning message, we are going to take some time to look at the “state of ourselves.” That is, we are going to look at where we came from individually, figure out what we find important in the life of the church, and then look to the future as we create a goal for how we can be part of God’s mission in our community.
Where do you come from?
- Mike gave a brief history of the movement in church history from which Harvest originates. We are a “reformation” church. Talk about how you came to be a part of Harvest.
- How was this last year for you, spiritually? What were some highs and lows?
- Read Acts 2:42-47. Has your life reflected the life of the early church?
What is important?
- Let’s start this section with a deceptively simple question: Why do you go to church?
- What do you believe should be the priority of the church, both the global church and the congregation that meets at Harvest?
- If Harvest were to create some sort of new ministry or program, and asked you what you believe that ministry or program should be geared toward, what specifically would it do? For example, if community outreach were your answer from the previous question, what practical steps should the church be taking to accomplish that goal?
What’s in the future?
- How will you serve the church body over the next year?
- What is some sort of habit you need to either break or improve this year?
- In whose life, either within or outside the church, can you make a difference this year? How will you do so?
Pray for the upcoming year, and the enormous potential we have. Remember we are a church backed by the almighty creator of the universe. The goals we have are nothing compared to the power and faithfulness of our Lord! Pray for opportunities to carry out our mission and to become a church body that impacts our community in the name of Christ.
I am open today from 11 am to 1 pm. Generally a team of two, alternating weeks, staff me. People come in the side door past the big staircase in the wedding garden where they are greeted and recorded. Depending on their family size, they shop for food to meet about 3-4 days’ need. Today, about ten to twelve families will come and shop my shelves and the one average-sized refrigerator that fits into my small room.
At about 11:30 the shoppers return from Birch Community Services – whose mission statement is “to provide a community where people can be responsible and accountable for their needs and to equip them with tools to overcome financial difficulty”. They get between 600 and 900 pounds of food to stock the shelves with – bulk rice, frozen vegetables, strangely-flavored chips and soda. Occasionally they get lucky and find some meat or some canned goods. Some shoppers have houses and apartments to cook in and some do not, so volunteers who go to Birch try to balance the foods they are offered with what different sorts of shoppers can use. Occasionally there are other things in storage to be pulled out, so the people stocking the shelves look for other gaps on the shelves to fill.
Every once in a while bulk foods need to be broken down, be it boxes of hamburger patties or bags of cous cous. This usually happens on an off day, where a volunteer will break things down and then come down and stock the shelves.
A different team from Sunday opens up the pantry at two. As on Sundays, they check the donation bin at the church entrance to see if anything needs transferred onto my shelves downstairs. They will usually have six to eight shoppers to greet and record, with a new person or two to get registered on a short sheet. These volunteers are responsible for making sure that everyone is getting a fair amount of food according to their family size, for keeping the room uncluttered, and for making people feel invited and warm. The pantry is closed up again at 4 pm.
Most weeks, the occasional person will walk in and ask for help with groceries. Even though the pantry is not open, someone from the office will walk them downstairs and help them get set up with a registration card and a few days worth of food. Sometimes they have another need to be filled, such as energy assistance or clothing. The office takes in these requests and follow up with the guest shopper.
Volunteers go to a nearby bread company and get roughly fifty bread items, then come in and stock my shelves for the next week’s worth of shoppers. The bread contribution is a huge blessing that provides a staple item for families in our church and local community.
Our food pantry is small and discreet; many people might not even realize that we have one. However, to our friends who shop regularly, it is a big help to stretch the budget a little farther. Some people have other methods of grocery assistance and some do not. We believe that our pantry is for the good of our community in any form that takes, and we try to put as few stipulations on our shoppers as possible. We recognize that it is a huge act of love that helps to make earth look a little more like heaven. We also reach out to people not already part of our church family – maybe this will be the thing that makes a difference.
This year it was also an avenue for the distribution of our Thanksgiving baskets. It was an opportunity for Troutdale Elementary families to recognize that they have yet another resource – and another friend – at Harvest Christian Church. I was overwhelmed by the support that we received for that ministry drive. It was a big relief to families and a great way for our pantry to show even more love. Thank you thank you thank you for taking part.
If you decide you want to help support our pantry, there are several ways to do it:
- Occasional Opportunities: breaking down bulk items, scooping ice cream at the January 14 chili cook-off, cleaning, stocking items,
- Regular Opportunities: become a weekly volunteer: We are currently in need of an additional Sunday volunteer who can work fairly reliably every other week from 11 am until 1 pm. We are also currently in need of two people who are regularly available on Mondays from 10 am to 12:30 pm.
- We can always use the following items:
- Peanut butter
- Canned meat
- Canned veggies
- Canned fruit
- Canned soups
- Excess garden produce
- We also do pay a fee to shop at BCS, so financial giving does have a place. Any money given should be designated to the “Care Team” fund.
- We can always use the following items:
- If your workplace, school, or community group wants a service project, we would love to have you come up with ways to stock our shelves. Recently, a group of nursing home employees had a contest to see who could bring in the most non-perishable items. Our pantry hugely benefited from this drive.
- Again, financial contributions are incredibly helpful as well.
- Spread the Word
- If you know someone in the area who needs extra help: let them know that we are here to support them.
- If you know someone with extra resources: remind them that we are a willing recipient of anything that can be easily passed out of our pantry (mostly food, occasionally clothing and hygiene items)
Interested in helping in the Food Pantry? Contact Faith Fox at [email protected]. We could not do this without our faithful volunteers!
The Women’s Ministry Team at Harvest works diligently to provide opportunities for connecting in fellowship throughout the year, culminating in our biggest event of the year, our destination retreat. This year our theme was “Community through Connecting.”
A few weekends ago 31 women came together for an amazing weekend in Lincoln City at The Dawn Treader Retreat House.
During our time together we pursued the idea of community through time spent in individual solitude with God, discovering what it’s like to draw nearer to Him in silence and rest, and in time spent together connecting with our sisters, drawing closer to each other.
It’s beautiful to see God working through the hearts of women.
We worshiped together, prayed for one another, encouraged each other and, of course, ate our fair share of bacon and other delicious meals.
What a blessing to be able to go away for a weekend, learn what God has for each of us, and come back refreshed and renewed in Him.
We are grateful for God’s timing and leading over the past several months as we prepared for our 2017 retreat, and for each woman in attendance.
We are already looking forward to our 2018 Fall destination retreat to Lincoln City once again.
In the meantime, be watching for more events in the near future, like our “2nd annual Sock-ing Stuffers Exchange” planned for Dec 10th and our annual “All-church Chili Feed” in January.
Plus, for the first time ever we are hosting a repeat of this years retreat in the Spring to be held at Harvest Christian Church…more details coming soon.
Women’s Ministry Team
I went my whole 18 years growing up to a great church of 800 in central Indiana that feels very similar to Harvest. I then moved and went to a small church of 30 in college, which was a totally different experience. Except one summer when I ended up having an internship, so I packed up my dorm room and moved to Bend, Oregon for ten weeks.
This church did this crazy thing every summer where they brought on fifteen interns. They want to offer college-age young adults the opportunity to serve in five different areas of ministry. Some people did it for credit and some people did it to get away. The part strangest to me is that they found thirteen families in their congregation to host these fifteen interns. There were hosts of all sorts. Some had no kids, some had young kids, and some had grown kids. It was very diverse.
Through this strange thing that they did, I got to learn a ton about hospitality. I had never seen a community support people like this. Everyone had us over for dinner, gave us odd jobs while we were doing this unpaid internship, and celebrated our birthdays. This community in Bend made me start to realize what it looked like for the church to be amazingly hospitable. Attending and now working at Harvest has continued to teach me this lesson.
God loves hospitality, and Harvest was made in His image. When my husband and I moved to Oregon, I immediately felt loved. I won’t make a big fuss over naming names, but there are so many of you that made me feel incredibly welcome after moving thousands of miles away from my family.
This post isn’t just to tell you guys what a great job you are doing, but that’s where I will start. Harvest family, I love how you shake hands by the door. I love how you show new families over to our check-in desk. I love how you serve in coffee ministry in one way or another. I love how you make this building look beautiful, and also how you make it seem warm. I love that you sit next to people and greet in the auditorium. I love that we do pie calls, that we reassure parents of new children when we show them the classroom, and that we host small groups. I think that this warm, relational focus is the best way to do ministry. I have a large round of applause for my church family.
Next, keep going.
I read this awesome book called The Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark. The gentleman is a sociologist, and he set out to figure out why the church spread so fast when it was j
ust an infant. Have you stopped to think recently about the history of it all? The church was basically just a crowd of people who followed Jesus around, probably 120 right after the crucifixion. Three hundred years later Stark estimates that there were over 6 million. His research leads him to believe that the church consistently grew by 40% per decade. Let that sink in. It’s insane. The government just stopped trying to fight it.
What led them to this sort of growth? This author goes through several factors, from fertility to class. What he proves, however, is that Christians were just different. They took care of people. When an epidemic swept through and everyone fled for their wellness, Christians stuck around and nursed people back to health. They shared amongst themselves what was needed. If someone had a lot, why wouldn’t they share? They were rare in that time in that they valued their children, they respected women, and they showed mercy. They didn’t run away when the difficulties of life came. They were hospitable and warm.
Of course, this also exists in Scripture. One of the first things we read about the early church in Acts comes from the second chapter and starts in verse 42. It’s going to sound familiar, because Small Groups Pastor Kyle Fox has been writing a lot about it too. In the NIV it reads,
“42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 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, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Christians ate together, they prayed together, they let themselves by awestruck by God together. They shared their possessions and gave to the poor. They continued to meet. They were glad and sincere towards each other. Through this, they gained favor with the people. Through this, God added to their group.
Keep this in mind. Growing in your warmth and hospitality not only builds up the body of Christ but it grows it. I’ll encourage you again, keep going. Be different. Be the best people. Be a great part of our Christian community and Harvest family, and be a great part of your neighborhood and work place. Throw a block party. Have a neighbor or another church family over for dinner. Comfort people at work when life gets them down, bring them a coffee the next morning. Offer your help with a daunting task. Hospitality, warmth, and caring attracts people. It draws them in. It adds to those who will be with us in heaven. Go and make disciples, and be hospitable.
Ready to get more connected to the community of Harvest? Sign up to become part of a small group! Groups start the week of September 10th-16th with the study “I AM” by James MacDonald. [Click here for more information]
Greetings from Kamketo, Kenya. This is Pastor Mike. Even though it’s the winter months here, it has been over 90 degrees everyday. It took us an extra 3 days to get out here to Kemketo from Kitale, but everything is going fine.
The ladies, Olivia, September, and my wife Jeanette, are learning the PoKot language and working on tile work in the Tierney’s house. They are also providing medical attention to the PoKot in nurse Kathy’s absence. She will be joining us in two more days. They have been distributing antibiotics and per
forming minor surgeries.
Michael VanDoren and myself are working hard on the house along with 20 PoKot people each day. I’ve never seen so many people stand in line to be able to work all day. The going rate is $2 per day. We are paying them $4 per day. They need the money badly to be able to buy corn, so we pay extra.
Our scorpion count is up to five and I have them all (alive) in a tupperware container. I don’t believe they are going to let us bring them home on the airplane. The PoKot people keep finding them and bringing me more for the container. The teacher here keeps picking them up. He says there is a special way to hold them. I’m not particularly interested in mastering his technique.
The new well that our church put in last month has been a huge success since the one in town is partially broken. There has been a constant line of people pumping water into large yellow 5-gallon jugs.
I preached Sunday with an interpreter. They seemed to like it. But I don’t think it was as good as when I was here in January because last time they gave me a chicken when I preached. Well, I still have two more Sundays…
We look forward to being back in two weeks and sharing some of the neat things that are going on!
The above quote is something my father in law often will tell those of us in my family when we need to be reminded how to handle things when they are not going as expected.
At the end of June a group from Harvest headed down south to Tecate, Mexico to work on building a house for a member of Pablo Martinez’s church (Pablo is one of the pastors we support on Harvest’s missions committee).
Ed Barker and Luke Scherler were the first to leave driving the van with the trailer of supplies and our team’s luggage. The majority of the rest of our team was to fly out the following morning where we would meet the guys in San Diego and together would cross the border to Mexico and head to Tecate. By late afternoon the van had over heated twice and Ed and Luke were stranded in Red Bluff, California, where the temperature was 115 degrees. Thankfully, Carol Barker was able to drive a truck from Portland to meet the guys in Red Bluff. She arrived around midnight and then they left the van and continued on in the truck. They drove all night to meet up with the rest of us in San Diego. Yeah! Unfortunately, the truck would not be able to transport all 12 of our team members so a rental van was needed. After 2 hours of phone calls we were able to find a van that was just the right size for our need and could be driven into Mexico. “Thank you, Lord!”
The start of the building of the house had a couple of issues ☹ When the foundation was built the plans were flipped so that the bathroom could be on the left side of the house instead of the right. That took some time for Ed (our master building planner, supervisor) to decide how we would start are project. After a few hiccups on the first day everything seemed to be coming together. Whew!
The weather while we were in Tecate was extremely hot for us Oregonians. Anywhere between 100-105 for the first 4 days of our trip. This made working very difficult. With no complaining (that was audible) the team was able to change our wake up times to 6 am to try and get as much work accomplished during the cooler time of the day. By the end of our week the majority of the house had been built. With just some interior items needing to be done (sheet-rock, insulation, etc.). Thankfully, with help from Mountainview Christian Church and members of Pablo’s church those things are getting taken care of.
Proverbs 16:9 says . . .
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”
Many of us on the team had moments of frustration or concerns about our abilities. But coming to the job site everyday and seeing Armando, Rebecca and their children helped everything come in to focus. We were there for them! But even beyond that we were there to serve to Lord!
To me that’s what mission trips are about. Sometimes things don’t go as planned, sometimes we’re uncomfortable, but God is always there walking us through, helping us through the different obstacles we encounter. I learn more about Him and my faith grows the more I serve others, especially others that are unlike me.
Ed and I are hoping to lead another mission trip to Tecate next year. Pray and ask the Lord if this would be a part of His plan for you?
Pictured Left to Right (Ann McFarlane, Ed Barker, Rebecca, Steve and Joel Katz, Seth Scherler, Luke Scherler, Senny Scherler, Isaac Martinez, Madison Christensen, Shanaya Nelson, Mirela Nelson, Teresa Scherler, Pablo Martinez, and Cliff Nelson)
Harvest team members in bold.
**As I write this I ask for you to be in prayer for Armando he is scheduled to have surgery Tuesday, August 15th to have the 3 tumors removed from his brain. His recovery time away from home will be at least a month and during that time Rebecca his wife will be staying with him and had to quit her job.
Please pray for Armando’s full recovery
Please pray for their children while Armando and Rebecca are away (Grandparents will be staying with the children)
Pray for a job for Rebecca once they return home. She is the main financial contributor to their family.
Pray for Armando, Rebecca and their children that their faith will be strengthen.
Guest Post by Theresa Scherler
(pictured with husband Luke)
You may recognize some booklets for our “Super Hero Memory Program” that have gone home with your kids in the last couple of weeks (1st-3rd Graders). We are very excited about this! I am investing in our kids memorizing the Bible, in them hiding Scripture in their hearts. My goal is to get them started on being able to recognize Bible sections, to maybe even have a piece of Scripture to lean back on when they need help deciding what is right. I hope that this sets their hearts on a good course and crafts their identity. That’s a big goal, but if you don’t have a big goal why be motivated to try?
Here’s a few guidelines, straight from me. They have until August 4 to memorize these verses. There are many one-point verses, a few two-point verses, one three-point verse, and ten points for memorizing the book titles in order for each testament. That last one – that’s an easy ten points! They will need to keep their book throughout the summer, and when they bring this book to church they can recite the verses they memorized that week. A check-in volunteer, a classroom teacher, or I will sign and date when they recited the verse. At the end of the ten weeks, they can turn their books in to me and I will add up how many points they earned.
If they reach fifty-one points, they get to go to our Grand Prize Party. This will be something awesome, like laser tag, mini golf, or a movie pizza party. Like I said, I am investing in your kids learning Scripture! There are other prize tiers too, and you can check these out in the memorization books.
This program is for upcoming first through third graders. I am also relying on you, parents/grandparents/guardians, to help them memorize. These kids aren’t all strong readers yet, and we aren’t providing designated class time for memorization. So at home, help them read the verses, find some songs on YouTube that give the verses a fun tune, and Google other great memorization practices. I know that when I had to memorize verses in college, Scripturetyper.com was an AWESOME resource. I’m splitting the responsibility with you- help them learn, and we’ll listen to the recitation and provide GREAT prizes.
There is good in it for you too! No Grand Prize Party for adults, but I have confidence that as your are coaching your kid or listening to them practice, it will help you to memorize these verses yourself. Have you memorized much Scripture? I know that many people come to faith as adults, and I am so excited about that. But in that process, did you go through the elementary process of memorization?
Church, this isn’t just for parents of the kids in Uptown. Memorizing Scripture is incredibly useful. Scripture says that we hide His word in our hearts so that we might not sin against Him. It helps us with our call to righteousness. It turns our heart towards loving him. Scripture also says to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have. This is a great reason to study apologetics through philosophy and science, but it is also a great reason to memorize Scripture. When someone challenges you, and I hope that they do, what do you have to say? Do you have passages of the Bible that you can share in conversation with someone who might doubt what God’s word has to say? Can you share something that motivates you to love?
Even me. I know many of the verses that these little disciples will be memorizing, but I can’t tell you the scriptural “address” of several of those. There are others that I only have a faint idea of what they say, I can refer to a phrase and say “I’m pretty sure that is in the Bible somewhere.” I had a great memorization program in my children’s ministry, and in college! So some of you might be like me, and need to decide on a refresher course. If you need accountability, feel free to come talk to me, or as always you can email me at [email protected]
This summer, I commit to memorizing these Scriptures alongside our kids. I will make sure that, by the time the day comes around in August, that I will know all of these verses. I will memorize the books of the Bible in order. I hope you will too!
DOWNLOAD THE MEMORY VERSE BOOK HERE: Memory Verse Program Book 2017
Scripture Memory Challenge:
- John 16:33
- Zephaniah 3:17
- Philippians 4:4
- Colossians 3:12
- 1 John 5:3
- Hebrews 13:8
- Psalm 150:6
- Romans 10:13
- Romans 3:23
- James 1:17
- Matthew 28:20
- Psalm 118:24
- Psalm 119:105
- Matthew 22:39
- 1 Corinthians 10:31
- Psalm 19:1
- Genesis 1:1
- Psalm 139:14
- Matthew 28:6
- 1 John 4:9
- 1 Thessalonians 5:17
- Isaiah 26:4
- Joshua 1:9
- Psalm 46:1
- Isaiah 40:28
- John 3:16
- Ephesians 4:32
- Philippians 4:6
- 2 Timothy 4:12
- 2 Timothy 3:16
- Romans 6:1
- John 14:6
- Luke 2:52
- Psalm 136:1
- 1 John 3:18
- Ecclesiastes 9:10
- Galatians 5:22-23
- Matthew 28:19-20
- Proverbs 3:5-6
- Matthew 22:37-39
- Books of the Old Testament
- Books of the New Testament
Hello Harvest Family. I am sending your way ten reasons why you should be part of the VBS volunteer staff. Some are big, some are small, all are relevant. Enjoy!
1. We have snacks. They’re going to be good snacks. They are going to be theme-driven and cute. Why even finish the list?
2. Jesus loves kids. He said to let the little children come to me. Whether you are a regular volunteer, so scared of large groups of children that you make a wide loop into the auditorium away from the kid wing, or have been slowly considering whether or not Uptown is a ministry you want to commit to, we can find a way for you to take part in Jesus’ love for the little ones.
3. Your kid/grandkid/brother/niece would love it. They would be so excited to have you there taking part!
4. You’ll get a t-shirt. All volunteers are going to get an AWESOME t-shirt, design and color TBD.
5. You will get to take part in teaching kids about how BIG God is. If you love God, if you love God so much that you just can’t help but let it pour out of you, I NEED you. No negotiations. We will have unreached kids there that NEED someone passionate to tell them about how awesome God is.
6. You can be a part of our children’s ministry, even if you don’t have the opportunity for a month on/month off Uptown commitment. I get it, it’s hard to say “yes, I can be in the classroom every other month.” But this is just three hours a day for five days. It’s easy. It’s a great opportunity for members of our congregation who are not normally in our ministry to get to support their discipleship.
7. You really love stargazing, right? Well, we have a stargazing themed VBS this year. It’s perfect for you!
8. These lessons are great for everyone. They are basic and important. Kids, big kids, and adults alike can benefit from what we are offering.
9. We have crafts. And games. And worship. And missions. It’s going to be so much fun.
10. You love Harvest. We love you! You’re part of our family. Serving at VBS is a great way to solidify connections and make relationships. It’s a good thing, I promise.
There you have it. Ten simple reasons. If you resonate with any of these, you can pass a background check, and you have some spare time in the month of July please consider being a part of the VBS staff. There is a wide variety of ways you can help, and they aren’t all Monday –Friday 8:30-12:30. You can sign up with this link [Sign up Here] , or fill out a volunteer form on Sunday. I’ll be in touch soon.
If you have questions or concerns, always feel free to email me at [email protected]
Hello Church Family,
Rebecca and I just returned from about 7 weeks in Uganda where our oldest daughter Rachel, her husband Daniel and a pending adoptive grandchild are living and working as missionaries. Daniel is a veterinarian, a graduate of Oregon State, and he sets up small business enterprises where Ugandans in isolated communities can raise turkeys, goats and rabbits not only to augment their own diets but also to generate some income. There are several places in Uganda where he has ‘start-ups’ so there is a bit of travel for him to keep the process in motion. Each of these locations is connected to a local church work so Dr. Daniel’s work creates a bridge between destitute and marginalized widows and families and the message of Good News.
While we were there I was able to go directly to three of the sites where he has gotten things in motion. Each one of the
visits was moving and humbling. At one location the widow we visited was so grateful for our visit, words of encouragement and prayer that she gave me a Rooster. I can afford more roosters than she could imagine but the gift was graciously accepted. At another site (about 18 hours of driving away) we visited displaced forest pygmies who have been driven onto marginal lands, and without resources and support. Large portions of Africa are being depopulated and left as animal preserves because of international effort to create wildlife sanctuaries. National governments are financially rewarded for this but nothing trickles down to blunt the effects of displacement on those evicted without compensation, from lands that they lived on out of recorded history. The Pastor of the local Baptist church in this area which is just north of the Rwandan border and Daniel have partnered to identify open land (Pastor George’s task) and establish a protein and income source for these impoverished and neglected people (Dr. Daniel’s task). The tribe they work with are the Batwa and they are an unreached people group with animistic beliefs. They are now building interdependence with the local church.
I spoke to them in a breathtaking circumstance, part way up the side of a cone volcano, one of three in a line marching into northern Rwanda. Through an interpreter I used ideas from Acts chapter 17 to present God’s nature and made the case that special trees and rocks and mountains cannot help us with our needs because they are only created things, like us. God, who made all things, is our source of help. Pray for these people as Pastor George and Dr. Daniel continue their work with the Batwa.
About 15 kilometers from the town of Soroti, where Rachel and Daniel are based is a third work that has just started. Rebecca and I were present as two turkeys each were ‘loaned out’ by the church there to widows and impoverished families. Several weeks later students from the Bible School that Daniel teaches in came along for a follow-up with those who received turkeys. We (Dr. Daniel, Pastor Charles and I) visited a blind man and his wife who have many children. He went blind in 2010 and this has devastated his ability to provide for his family. This visit almost overwhelmed me because his needs are so complex; even to provide food for his children. They eat one meal a day which many poor families do in Uganda, and the children can augment this with mangoes which have two seasons, Spring, and Fall, and anything else they obtain in the bush. The family has a small plot of land and their daily meals are derived from this. We prayed for Michael and his family before we left and you can to. Other ‘helps’ are in the works for him but they cannot be associated with U.S. money because it distracts desperate people from looking to God for help and they look to humans (us) as their benefactors. This does not mean that we cannot help but our help should pass through the local church so it is rightly identified with God for His glory.
It is tempting to pull our pockets out and let the change fall liberally all over the place. Many of us have the wherewithal to answer today’s problems for some. We may want others to see us as good people and our heart is to help and do good things, but when we do this carelessly people begin to depend on us as though we are their answer to life’s problems. That is God’s role and not ours.
So Rebecca and I are home now but home seems a little strange. Some things have changed, maybe it is us. We have atoms from the dust of Africa in our bodies. We lived as visible minorities in a culture not quite like our own. As we look around us we must conclude that we are so blessed but we feel a vague burden with our blessing. New ideas are forming in our minds. Just like Abraham was blessed to be a blessing, so have we been blessed.
Guest Post by Harvest Board Member
Steve Long (pictured with wife Rebecca)
“Friendship is a lot like food. We need it to survive. What is more, we seem to have a basic drive for it. Psychologists find that human beings have fundamental need for inclusion in group life and for close relationships. We are truly social animals.” Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today
Here at Harvest, every small group we start has 5 tasks to accomplish throughout its life: fellowship, study, provision, worship, and evangelism. All five of these are taken from the last few verses of Acts 2, but I want to take some time to expound on each one of these tasks, and talk about why it is included, Biblical examples of what they each look like, and how we can incorporate them into the small group atmosphere. Today, let’s start with “fellowship.”
It’s hard to imagine that anybody would disagree that spending quality time with others is a necessary part of the human experience. Whether they are part of the church or not, people inevitably seek out others for friendship and support. Isolation has been shown to Of course, the followers of Christ are no different, we may simply have a grander reason for doing so; that is, to mimic the desire of unification that God is shown to have in scripture.
Indeed, the concept of “fellowship,” through the lens of the church, is far more than simply spending time with each other. Friendship is only the beginning. So let’s take a look at some passages of scripture that discuss fellowship, and see if we can glean wisdom from them.
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
From nearly the very beginning of human history, it has been decreed by the Creator itself that it is not good for us to be alone. Now, it is important to mention the specific context here: God then created Eve, who was a very specific kind of counterpart to Adam. But we cannot remove the fact that God did not say “it is not good for man to not have a wife,” or “it is not good for man to not have to do all the work by himself.” God simply says that it would be detrimental if the man that was created to remain by himself. As created beings of God ourselves, it is probably safe to say that the same concept applies to us: we should not be alone.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
The book of Proverbs is an interesting section of the Bible. Nothing else is quite like it, in that it is simply a book of wise advice from Solomon, handed down to his sons. It is full of pithy statements, that, give us some kind of wise truth. It is important to note that any given idea from Proverbs will not always be true, for we all know that sometimes we can find that we are not sharpened by other people. Not every friendship has a positive effect on our life. But we can, without a doubt, say that, in general, if we have good intentions and reflect the love of Christ, the fellowship we have with others will result in stronger relationships and stronger faith.
Have you ever thought about what it actually means to sharpen something? When you sharpen a pencil, you are removing pieces of that pencil until you have left a refined point with which you can produce a finer line when you write.
I believe that it is also true with us. As we seek to refine our faith, we remove the sin that entangles us. We leave behind our misconceptions about scripture. We even often discontinue relationships that do not have a positive effect on us.
Strong fellowship is a part of this. When we regularly meet together and grow more intimate relationships with one another, we have an opportunity to provide accountability to each other, to teach and learn from each other, and to provide emotional support and prayer for one another.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
God, in an utterly gracious and often perplexing act of charity, has given us permission to share in the task of bringing the earth and its inhabitants to a place of reconciliation with Him. The author of Hebrews claims, in the tenth chapter, that fellowship is a part of this process. We have the opportunity to encourage each other in carrying out the work of love that Jesus modeled for us in his ministry. We should continue to meet together on a regular basis, in order to carry this burden of evangelism as one.
Additionally, Hebrews’ author gives us what, in literary terms, would be called “the ticking clock.” He reminds us that we don’t have the rest of eternity to bring all of God’s creation back into the fold, as we sometimes want to believe. The author refers to the “Day,” the day when Jesus will return and His righteous judgment will come to pass. With such a large task to accomplish, it is imperative that we not cease to meet together and encourage each other on in our faith.
So, in this brief cruise through scripture, we have learned that fellowship was deemed necessary for humans by the very being that created them, that fellowship helps us to improve ourselves and those we are spending our lives with, and that meeting together regularly for encouragement is absolutely necessary if we are to make progress in the task that our Creator has given us.
This week, take time to consider the concept of fellowship. Take time to ask yourself if the time you spend in the company of others is going beyond just simple companionship or if you could be doing more to continue the example of close and intimate relationships that we see in the lives of Jesus and his disciples. There are many more words of wisdom regarding fellowship that can be found in scripture. Below, there is a space for comments. Add to the conversation by telling us about some of your favorite moments of unity and relationships in scripture!