Guest Teacher: Jeff Vanderstelt (Going Deeper in the Gospel)

Our mission as a church is to make disciples who make disciples. Our vision is the way in which we go about living out our mission. With that said, our vision as a church is “Deeply Rooted in Six Counties.” We want to be a church that is growing deeper in our relationship with God, with people in the church, and those in the six counties all around us. We asked Pastor and author, Jeff Vanderstelt, to do some teaching about how we can grow more deeply in the glorious truths of the gospel. Jeff is the Teaching Pastor at Doxa Church in Bellevue, Washington. He is asked on a regular basis to write and speak about the gospel and how it applies to everyday life. Recently, Jeff wrote the excellent book, Gospel Fluency. Below is the video of the teaching that Jeff did for us.

HERE are some discussion questions that you or your Life Group could use to deepen your understanding and appreciation of the gospel.

HERE is an interview I did with Jayne, Jeff’s wife, many years ago.

Jeff Vanderstelt Speaking on “Going Deeper in the Gospel”

Jeff VandersteltOur vision as a church is “Deeply Rooted in Six Counties.” We want to be a church that is growing deeper in our relationship with God, with people in the church, and those in the six counties all around us. With that said, we have asked Pastor and author, Jeff Vanderstelt, to do some teaching about how we can grow more deeply in the glorious truths of the gospel. Jeff is the Teaching Pastor at Doxa Church in Bellevue, Washington. He is asked on a regular basis to write and speak about the gospel and how it applies to everyday life. Recently, Jeff wrote the excellent book, Gospel Fluency. On Sunday, May 17th, 6:00 PM, from the safety and comfort of your own home, you can join us for this unique opportunity.

The teaching can be found at: http://www.newlifeefree.org

Everyday Life Is Our Mission Field

As the weather turns warmer here in South Dakota we are now able to be outside for more than 5 seconds without fear of freezing to death. This makes me very happy! The warmer weather, besides making me happy, also means that there are opportunities to get to know the neighbors who have been hibernating for the past 4 months.

One of the things you will hear us say here at New Life Church is that everyday life is our mission field. We believe that God has strategically placed us in our homes, neighborhood, workplace, and city to live as ambassadors for Jesus Christ. I wanted to share with you, through pictures, what some very creative people put together in our church foyer to express the truth that we are to live as missionaries in everyday life. I will also share with you some practical ways that you can change the world at the end.

IMG_0587

IMG_0588IMG_0590IMG_0589IMG_0591IMG_0592IMG_0593IMG_0594IMG_0595IMG_0596

PRACTICAL STEPS TO TAKE TO CHANGE THE WORLD

  • Pray and ask God to soften your heart towards his lost sons and daughters.
  • Don’t wait for someone else to take action. Decide on a couple things you can do right away and get started.
  • We are, again, dedicating the entire month of July to loving our neighbors in practical ways. We call it “Mission Watertown.” Please be watching for more details.
  • Make your house a place of hospitality. Invite neighbors over for a meal.
  • Put a picnic table in your front yard. Sit outside more and start up conversations with neighbors.
  • Put your grill in front of your house and invite neighbors to join you.
  • Begin building relationships in your everyday life. Slow down. Ask questions. Make time for conversations. God has placed you where you are for a strategic, kingdom reason.
  • Find areas of the city where there are real problems. Financial hardship, broken families, fatherlessness, etc. Roll up your sleeves, get involved and make a difference.
  • Ask your Life Group to brainstorm with you ways that you can work together to make a difference in the Watertown area.
  • Read good books that encourage you to live like a missionary:

17 Of My Favorite Quotes From “The Simplest Way To Change The World: Biblical Hospitality As A Way Of Life” by Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements

IMG_0558

Here are 17 of my favorite quotes from “The Simplest Way To Change The World: Biblical Hospitality As A Way Of Life” by Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements

Too dependent on the mega church?

Can you imagine the power of the church in which ordinary members knows what it means to be filled with the Spirit of God and led by the Spirit of God? God’s plan to glorify Himself in the church never consisted of platformed mega-pastors, cutting-edge-art, or expensive buildings. The real power in the church is found in the Holy Spirit moving through ordinary people as they carry His presence into the streets. p. 12

Can we change the world from our home?

But what if I told you that you could actually change the world, right from your home? If you desire to join God’s mission but have no clue what that looks like in normal life, we have good news for you. You already have access to the ultimate game-changing secret weapon that will transform the way that you think about your life as part of God’s mission. The secret weapon for gospel advancement is hospitality, and you can practice it whether you live in a house, an apartment, a dorm, or a high-rise. p. 19

Put the grill at the front of the house

I (Dustin) have been amazed by how the simple act of rolling my grill to my front yard (not the backyard) and grilling burgers has effectively allowed me to meet neighbors, hear their stories, share our lives, and point to truth. I’ve never printed flyers or sent out mailers. I’ve simply heated the charcoal and watched people show up. One of the most ordinary things we do every day is eat a meal at our homes. We do this small act with intentionality and usually with other people, and we simply watch the Holy Spirit bring about the significance. p. 22-23

God loves to use the ordinary

If we are ever going to join all our lives to God’s mission to change the world, we need to reclaim all of our ordinary pieces as part of that gospel mission. We will have to reject the notion that something has to be big or unusual to be significant. We will have to view the ordinariness of our lives as significant and allow God to use our homes as a seed to be planted and grown, not something to be discarded or devalued. p. 24

IMG_0562.JPG

Our homes are a weapon for the gospel

Thinking about our homes in this way is a wonderfully freeing concept. As it turns out, we have a more fulfilling and rewarding purpose for our homes than using them exclusively for our benefit and comfort. Instead of thinking of them only as a personal refuge, they can be opened as spiritual hospitals for the hurting around us. Instead of being an oasis of self-interest, they can be transformed into a weapon for the gospel, a four-walled tool to wield in God’s cosmic battle against sin and evil. As we do this, we become the type of counterculture that puts God’s generosity on display. p. 24

What in the world do you mean when you say ‘Biblical hospitality?’

The Simplest Way To Change The WorldAt it’s core, the practice of hospitality is obeying the command in Romans 15:7 to “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you.” It’s receiving others into our lives-into relationship and, yes, even into our homes. It welcomes Christians as a way to walk in the truth that we’ve been made family through the gospel, and it welcomes non-Christians in an attempt to model and extend the gracious invitation we’ve received from God in Christ. p. 26-27

I’m an introvert so I don’t have to do this hospitality thing!

Half of all people identify as introverts, so if you are one, we realize you may be thinking, Yeah, but I really can’t practice-I don’t want to practice-hospitality because I’m an introvert. It would be too draining. Please do not read this book thinking the message is, force yourself to be an extrovert because of the gospel! Please don’t let your personality type be a barrier to living out a god-ordained calling that is actually tailor-made to suit your personality type. I understand that introverts get the rap that they don’t like people, but that’s not true. We just like people in smaller, quieter doses that our extroverted compatriots do. I have found that inviting one person (or a couple of people) to my house where they enjoy quality time together, have a good conversation, and experience a volume level that never gets too stressful is actually totally my speed (and completely fits the bill of hospitality!). p. 31-32

Hospitality won’t happen by accident

We cannot haphazardly live out hospitality. We must pursue it intentionally, and frankly, it needs to be calendared. Having people in my (Dustin’s) home for a meal or a game night or to watch a big game tends to happen only if my wife or I put it on the calendar. p. 35

IMG_0566.JPG

How is social media impacting us?

Though social media is a wonderful tool with many redeeming qualities, it is also a perfect breeding ground for this ability to be “connected” without really being connected in the truest sense. We can craft our images carefully and interact with the carefully crafted images of others, but oftentimes the depths of knowing others and being known are impossible to reach via these online interactions. And even though many of us are addicted to our devices, people are starving for the depth that comes from real, in-person relationships. p. 59

Hold up! I want to change the world by scolding it!

When feeling threatened by the culture changing around them, many Christians assume a defensive posture-and this is the simplest way to not change the world. Many resort to the relational equivalent of yelling at a driver who just cut them off, or they become touchy or overly combative (all in the name of “defending the truth”). This combative, aggressive stance may feel like the best path to stand up for the things that we believe in, but much of the time it fails the “speak the truth in love” test Paul gave us in Ephesians 4.  p. 60-61

IMG_0569.JPG

Eating the body of Jesus or eating a burger?

Think about it: are we more likely to convince our neighbors to come to a church service where we symbolically drink the Savior’s blood and eat His body, or to eat a burger on the patio? p. 64

Why practice hospitality in the first place?

By the simple act of opening your door you are joining in on what God is doing to heal the planet and welcome prodigal sons and daughters back into his family. You are turning your home into a wartime hospital where the spiritually hurting can get hope and care they need. p. 67

IMG_0567

What if your house became known as “that house?”

Imagine this: what if your house (or apartment, etc.) became known as “that house” in your neighborhood? What if your home became a little bright spot in your community, that when people walk or drive by your door, their heads turn a little and they start to wonder what’s different about you, because you don’t seem to think about your home the same way everyone else in the neighborhood does? p. 72-73

Um, my house is kinda messy so I can’t do hospitality

In reality, you inviting others into your messy house is actually a beautiful act of vulnerability. It’s letting them see that you are a busy, imperfect human that does not live in a glass house. This is actually more hopeful than bringing them into a spic-and-span environment, because their house is probably messy too. The good news of the gospel is that our homes or our meals do not have to be perfect-we are free to be real humans who have messes and burn casseroles. p. 83

I just simply can’t add something else to my busy schedule!

You don’t need to add another task to your already-busy schedule. Instead, think like a missionary when living out your normal, everyday activities. p. 94

IMG_0564

Get off the couch and go outside

This may come as a newsflash, but your neighbors don’t live in your house. So if you never leave your humble abode, you’ll never meet any of your neighbors. They are not going to bust up in your living room and introduce themselves, and if they do you should call the cops ASAP. p. 97

How do you get to the gospel?

The end goal of hospitality is not that you simply host people in your home as much as you use your home as a place to display and speak the gospel. Paul, who repeatedly pointed us to the practice of hospitality also boldly proclaimed his desire to be valiant about the good news of the gospel: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for everyone who believes: (Rom. 1:16). Clearly the aim of hospitality is more than merely inviting someone into our home, sharing a meal and a few good stories, and calling it a night. We are missionaries, after all. Paul reminded us, “We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us” (2 Cor 5:20). And pastor Charles Spurgeon said, “Every Christian…is either a missionary or an imposter.” p. 119

Lent: Prepare the Way of the Lord (Week 1)

LENT: Prepare the Way of the Lord

A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” -Isaiah 40:3

Week 1-What is Lent About?

Lent 1“Lent is first and foremost about the gospel making its way deeper into our lives. This season is an opportunity to root ourselves in the good news that God saves sinners through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It is a time to take stock, examine our hearts, repent of sin, turn to God, reflect on the suffering our Savior endured to accomplish our salvation, and finally, rest in the assurance of that salvation. Observing Lent is not necessary or central to experiencing life in Christ. Furthermore, this is not a season of “doing penance.” Rather, having been sealed in Christ with the Holy Spirit, Lent is a season where we intentionally set aside time to remember Jesus and the grace that is found through faith in him alone. Lent is not about our faithfulness, but rather about the faithfulness of Jesus on our behalf.” –Journey to the Cross

As a church we enter into this season to repent of all the things that make false promises of fulfillment and instead we turn our hearts and minds to the only One who truly satisfies our aching hearts, Jesus Christ.

Use these weekly Lenten devotionals for your personal use or together with your family.

Scripture Meditation

Hebrews 12:1-14 (spend time meditating upon these verses this week, read them together with your family)

Questions for Reflection

Here are the two most important questions you can ask after reading God’s Word: What is God saying to you through this passage (Hebrews 12:1-14)? What will your response be to what God is saying?

If we think that Lent is merely giving up the things we enjoy we don’t really understand what Lent is all about. Lent is about confessing and repenting of our sins so that we can experience the fulfillment and love that only Jesus Christ can give to us. Are there things in your life that are robbing you of your joy that you need to confess? Spend time confessing them an ask God to give you the strength to leave them behind.

Determine in your heart and mind that you will create margin in your busy schedule (for you and your family) this Lenten season to focus on the gospel so that you can fully embrace the joys of Easter on April 1st.

Artwork above (woman praying) is by Jenny Popp. Music by Fernando Ortega.

Surviving or Living? The Gospel Makes All The Difference.

Last night the New Life Care Ministry hosted an event called “Surviving or Living? The Gospel Makes All The Difference.” What we wanted to address is the fact that there is a gap between knowing the facts of the gospel and how it relates to everyday life. The major reason we are so fatigued, burnt out, anxious, prone to give into temptation is that we we are not immersing our hearts and minds in the truths of the gospel. We fail to see what the good news of Jesus Christ has to do with how we feel and live on Monday morning. Here are the notes from our time together.

  • Introduction to Care Ministry at New Life Church
    • It is for you
    • It is for you to recommend to others
    • It is Christ-centered
    • It is discipleship
  • Introduction to our topic tonight, “Surviving or Living”
  • The problem
    • Many of us feel tried and worn out
    • We hear of the abundant life but we wonder if we are missing out
    • We feel like we are in survival mode
  • The solution is the gospel
    • What is the gospel? “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,  and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” -1 Corinthians 15:3-5
  • But we have a problem again. We need a bridge to get us from the amazing truths of the gospel to how it actually connects to everyday life.

bridge.jpeg

  • The bridge is learning what it means to abide in Jesus Christ (John 15).

Table discussion

  • Read John 15:1-11
  • “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

  • Questions:
    • What does Jesus say the vine, branches, and gardener represent?
    • What happens to a branch that does not abide to its branch?
    • What happens to a Christian that is not abiding in Jesus?
    • Describe how you have been feeling lately (happy, tired, sad, anxious, etc).
    • Verse 5 tells us that a person who abides in Jesus bears much fruit. What do you think it means to bear much fruit?
    • What is the key way that we abide in Jesus? (Verse 7 gives you the answer.)
    • How have you been doing lately when it comes to abiding in Jesus by reading the Bible? (doing great, it’s a struggle, non-existent)
    • End of table discussion

Large group time

  • Let’s get even more specific and practical when it comes to how the gospel relates to everyday life.
    • How should Jesus’ love for you impact the way you live everyday life?
      • As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. -John 15:9
    • How should the fact that Jesus has forgiven you of so much impact the way you respond to people who offend you?
      • 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. –Ephesians 4:32
    • How should the fact that we have been given all the riches of Christ (forgiveness, adopted into God’s family, eternal life) impact how generous you are?
      • that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2-3
    • God loves you and cares about you so much that he sent his Son to die on a cross for you. How does this impact our daily temptation to be anxious or worried?
      • 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. -1 John 4:10
    • Our culture lacks contentment. How should the gospel impact your level of contentment and gratitude in everyday life?
      • 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13
    • Jesus is amazingly beautiful to gaze upon. How should this impact a person’s temptation to look at porn?
      • 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. –Mark 13:26
    • Here is the key. As we think about these Biblical truths we find that we are abiding in Christ.
    • A helpful tool to abide in Christ
      • The Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent
    • Let’s take a few moments of prayerful reflection. Identify something that is on your heart and mind these days (a concern, difficult circumstance, temptation, etc). Prayerfully think about how the gospel applies to this particular issue.
      • Write down your thoughts here:

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  •  Have a few people share their thoughts based on their time of reflection (only if you feel comfortable doing so)
  • Closing prayer

We had a great discussion and I hope people left with a better idea of how to abide in Christ and the difference he makes in everyday life. What are some ways that you apply the good news of Jesus Christ to everyday life? Would love to hear from you!

 

Discipleship Cohort Through The EFCA

Our mission at New Life Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Jesus made the mission for the church pretty clear in Matthew 28 when he left these marching orders, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

I am excited that the denomination that our church is a part of, Evangelical Free Church of America, is working to develop a culture of discipleship within their churches.

This year I, and our Youth Pastor, are going to begin an EFCA Transformational Cohort that is all about discipleship.

Here are the details:

BUILDING A DISCIPLEMAKING CULTURE – LED BY DAVE RHODES AND SHANE STACEY

Clarify and design your church’s unique disciplemaking language, vision, practices and strategy in your local context. In this cohort, you will:

Assess and evaluate your current disciplemaking culture.

Gain access to 18 different training exercises to use with your leadership team that will move you beyond information to aligned implementation and intentional application.

Develop your own transferable tool kit for training others.

Create a 5-year disciplemaking vision and executable plan for your church.
The homework for this cohort involves leading your team through exercises to help you build out your discipline culture.

I am looking forward to what God is going to teach us and how we can have a greater impact here in South Dakota when it comes to making disciples of Jesus Christ!

“A Praying Life” Seminar

A few years ago I read A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller. I will say that it quickly became one of my favorite books I have ever read about prayer. It is clear that Paul Miller has made prayer the very center of his life. It is invaluable to learn from someone who not understands the importance of prayer theologically but practices it day in, day out.

I am super excited to announce that on Saturday, September 30th, 2017 we are going to be hold “A Praying Life” seminar here at New Life Church.

How do you stay focused in prayer when you are distracted with so much to do?

How do you pray longer than five minutes?

How do you pray when your own life is messed up?

How do you ask when you’ve tried it before and it doesn’t work?

These are the kinds of questions and topics we will explore together. This is not a video simulcast. Bob Allums will be our speaker. Bob has been with seeJesus since the very beginning. He has been in pastoral ministry for over 14 years and has served at Crossway Books & Bibles. His great love is teaching the seeJesus seminars, especially A Praying Life.

You can register for this seminar HERE.

“The A Praying Life seminar is the most practical training in prayer possible, yet it is rooted in biblical theology. I highly recommend it.” -Tim Keller

A Praying Life Seminar Promotional Video from seeJesus on Vimeo.

Launching Our Counseling Ministry

I am super excited that we are launching our Counseling Ministry this weekend at New Life Church. For a number of different reasons we are calling it “Care Ministry.”

Our Care Ministry team has gone through about 22 weeks of intense training (addictions, depression, bi-polar, marriage and family, physical and sexual abuse, suicide, self injury, etc…). We partnered with Biblical Counseling Center in Illinois to both train our team and to launch our ministry. We have been very happy with their resources and guidance.

This Sunday we are graduating 14 people during our Sunday morning worship service! How exciting is that?

Let me share with you some of the details about this ministry.

Who is the Care Ministry?

  • Devoted Christian volunteers trained through Biblical Counseling Center and commissioned by New Life Evangelical Free Church.
  • As lay counselors, these volunteers are not professionals providing guidance as licensed health practitioners. They simply offer Christian counseling based on the Word of God and prayer led by the Holy Spirit.

What does the Care Ministry Do?

  • Bring the hope of Christ to hurting people by providing one-to-one, couple, or family counseling, shepherding and discipling.
  • Provide occasional group discipling sessions on topics such as marriage, addictions, depression, anxiety, etc.
  • Equip other people to become lay counselors by making available the Biblical Counseling Center training courses and walking alongside these trainees.

Why a Biblical Counseling Approach?

  • To equip the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13). We believe that it is critical that the leaders of the church are equipping others to do the work of ministry.
  • To fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20). Our mission as a church is to be making disciples of Jesus Christ. Christian counseling is first and foremost helping people to become more like Jesus Christ. Christian counseling is discipleship.
  • To help people who are hurting/struggling (Matthew 9:36). We want to be a relational church which means we are going to be getting to know each other really well. When that happens, when we let down our defenses, we will begin to see that there is a lot of hurt and brokenness all around us. We want to follow in Jesus’ steps and reach out to those who are hurting with the hope that only comes from God’s Word.

If you want to talk further about this ministry feel free to contact me at michaelw@newlifeefree.org.