Article: Responding to a Shifting Culture Youth Pastor Josh Hodgson

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This August I had the opportunity to attend the Global Leadership Summit for the first time. I heard from over a dozen world-class speakers, authors, and Pastors about various leadership issues. They provided quality teaching for both Christian and non-Christian leaders, but nothing was compromised in the effort. The Gospel was presented on two occasions and over 132,000 people from over North America worshiped and prayed together via simulcast in 550 locations. Over the next few months it will be rebroadcasted in over 59 languages in 125 countries to twice as many people. Throughout the GLS, different stories were highlighted about how God is using leaders from various parts of the world who are committed to Biblical leadership principles and submission to God’s leading, to transform communities and even entire countries.

One of the core beliefs of Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek and host of the GLS, is that “the local church is the hope of the world.” It is his goal to empower leaders who can carry out the mission God gave us: To care for others and bring them to Jesus.

None of us have to look very far to see how much the world is hurting. There is terrorism, domestic violence, this year’s political race, poverty, human trafficking, deadly natural disasters, and many other issues displayed for all to see on the news. Some of these problems feel so big and overwhelming that we don’t see how we can do anything about them. As our culture drifts further from God’s truth it is easy to feel discouraged.

Pastor Wilfredo De Jesús was the closing speaker at the GLS. His recent book, Stay the Course: Finding Hope in a Drifting Culture, gives a solution and hope for us Christians as we try to make sense of our times. Here’s some of what he had to say.

There are four responses to culture drift:

  1. Accommodate
  2. Oppose
  3. Withdraw
  4. Engage

When we Accommodate for the shift in culture so that we don’t step on anyone’s toes or to stay politically correct we lose truth. This is not the solution Jesus modeled and it is not how we should respond.

When we Oppose the shift it becomes a battle to be fought; lines are drawn and in the process we lose grace and love. This is not what Jesus taught and it is not what he did. This is not the correct response to a shifting culture either.

If we Withdraw from the culture to avoid the conflict, we are like the hired hand who buriedthe talent he was given. We lose connection with the very people we are meant to reach and limit our ability to be fruitful. This is not the response God wants us to make either.

The correct way for us to respond is to Engage. When Jesus taught that we are salt and light, he was telling us what our responsibility is as the church. He told us to be salt because the world is decaying and to be light because the world is in the dark. Evil prevails when salt and light are absent. The church is the salt and light of the world, so the church needs to be present.

Now if we engage unprepared, we can put ourselves at risk. There are three things we must do to stay the course and be effective at engaging the culture in order to make an impact.

  1. KNOW WHO WE ARE!

Don’t let anyone else define or determine who you are. Your identity is in Jesus! Let us allow him to define who we are as individuals and who we are as the church.

  1. WATCH THE UNDERCURRENT!

Keep alert for anything that is against God’s Word or God’s will. Think about this: The American dream is to gain it all; Jesus’ plan is to lose it all.

  1. KEEP COMING BACK!

Make corrections whenever necessary to stay the course. Repentance is uncomfortable because it means admitting you’re wrong. No one wants to be wrong! To repent requires humility.

May we stay the course! Let’s engage the culture!

An optimist and a pessimist went into business together. Trade flourished. “Well,” said the optimist, “we’ve had a wonderful month. It’s been one constant run of customers.”

“Yeah,” agreed the pessimist, “we have had some good business, but look at those front doors! If people keep shoving through them, the hinges will be worn out in another week.”

Are you going to engage the culture like the optimist or like the pessimist? There is so much work to be done. Let that fact motivate you, not defeat you.

Another speaker at the GLS coined this phrase I’ve recently adopted:

THE IMPATIENT OPTIMIST.

Let’s believe in God’s ability to transform lives, the culture, and our world. Let’s get to work. None of the problems in our world are too big for God! The fact that they aren’t solved yet shouldn’t make us pessimistic, but make us impatient to solve them.

Joshua Hodgson

 

Article: Dear Congregation

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I am sitting down at my desk one last time, to write my newsletter and say “Thank You” to both our God and to you.  It has been an honor and a privilege to serve. When I said yes to the Lord to serve him in ministry, I knew there would be the joys of coming to a new place of service, but I also knew there would be those times of tears when the Lord said it’s time to move to another ministry. As I said in my resignation letter, both Sue and I have felt the nudge of the Spirit of God, to move to this new place of ministry in Mahtowa, MN.

When the call committee first asked in 1997, if I would be willing to talk about coming to Community Covenant, little did I know that I would be privileged to live and partner with you for almost 2 decades.  It will be 1/2 of my total time in ministry.

In April of 2002, I reflected on the passage of time in this paragraph.

Back in the “Olden Days” there was a song by Jim Croce that started: “If I could save time in a bottle.” It talked about the marching of time in our lives and how it affected relationships. With Shannon, graduating from college and getting married, we are again faced with thinking about time and how it can slip through our fingers. The art of saving time and our influence, is sometimes easier to sing about than to do. However, I think there is a biblical plan that just might work.  It is time to invest in what matters.  If we will think of investing time in our family relationships and personal friendships we will continue to cherish and enjoy those relationships long after society says they should be over.”

And now 3 graduations, 3 weddings, seven grandkids, and 19 years later, we are saying goodbye and starting over in a new place of service.

I celebrate our time together. Please understand, I know my failures and shortcomings. I have never been satisfied when our ministry has not expanded. When you minister in a place this long, you will travel, both down in the valleys and up in the mountains.  God teaches and grows us and walks with us in both locations. It’s also good to  look back and see times when we zigged and we should have zagged. We have tried ministries that continue strong and we have stopped those that did not. As we learned in the Vitality pathway, that’s all normal and natural.

A part of a pastor’s thought process, as I tried to discern God’s will, is the reflection on what are the gifts needed, to move the church forward. I truly feel it’s time for a new pastor/prophet with a fresh vision who can continue the forward momentum to bring His church to new heights.

So as Sue and I look back, we have much to be thankful for and celebrate. Most of it revolves not around program, but around what God has done and the people we have had the privilege to serve and to serve with.

In 1968 Mary Hopkin wrote a simple song  in which the chorus begins like this:

“Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day “

 We have truly sung and danced in the name of Christ.

Here’s the list of memories. I begin with those things that come with the privilege of serving as pastor.

*The preaching of the Word of God

*The Prayer Ministry

*Great Worship & Praise Teams

*The saints/friends who have gone on to be with the Lord, now too many to name. The “Cloud of Witnesses” that faithfully served our Savior Jesus Christ.

*New and recommitted believers in Jesus Christ

Baptisms at Lake Beauty, Camp Lebanon, and in worship

*Easter Celebrations

*Confirmation classes and retreats

*The pre and post surgery prayers

*Sharing death-bed tears, hugs and prayers

*Pre-marriage Counseling, Weddings and wedding dances-my favorite

*The Chairmen I have served with: Bruce Warga, Vaughn Glasener, and Steve Woller.

*Teresa Welch, Jayne Glaser, and Suzi Johnson—my fantastic administrators.

*Cheryl Warga who has given leadership to music since (let’s just say … she was just 16 when she started)

*Jamaica Christian Boys Home

*The amazing staff that have enriched my life and ministry – Rocky Hovda, Nathan Hillman, Josh Hodgson  – (it must be the H!)

*The now hundreds of volunteers who have passionately  served Jesus Christ at CCC in all areas of ministry. All ages.

*Drums making entrance to worship (thanks Paul)

*Christmas Orchestras

*Piano & Organ Duets (Marilyn and Cheryl)

*Choir Cantatas, Men’s Ensemble

*Community Life Groups

*40 Days of Purpose  *9/11 remembrance

*Wednesday Night Meals and Ministry

*J– team

*One of the fastest growing rural churches in the Covenant because of strong youth ministry (2004)

*Veritas and Vitality Pathway.

*Habitat for Humanity Board

*“If I was a Pastor” song with Upsala Ministerium

*Helping Hands sharing ministry

*Big Sundays at Camp

*The Building Addition

*Repurposing the Sanctuary & Fellowship Hall

*Three C’s “Exalt Christ, Embrace Community, Extend Compassion”

*125th Anniversary Weekend (2013)

*Senior Bible Study and treats

*The incredible Softball team and my dramatic exit—I guess you could say it was my “Achilles Heel”

*New outdoor Cross and campfire pit

*Crow Duck Lake fishing trip

*Harvest Fest concerts

*A Blessed Sabbatical

*Chancellor Summer concerts in the Park

*Covenant Women Auction—Bonnies donuts, $60.00 pies, Bill and Joyce’s Cider

*Hayrides at Tim Johnson’s and Bruce Warga’s

*Special Guest- Barney Fife (Larry Delawder)

*Promise Keepers trip to Washington DC

*Men’s Bible Study since beginning.

*Celebrate Recovery—Pure Desire groups

*Phil’s Diner times 3

*Chic trips

*My partners in ministry in neighboring churches and in the Covenant district.

*The Generous church that has supported and loved my family

*A wonderful parsonage to raise a family

*Building a racetrack in Jamaica

*Community Memories

*Building play sets at school

*Class Trips with Mr. A

*Girls Volleyball

*Band Concerts

*School Plays

*Coaching Soccer

*Community Ed Board

*Variety Shows

*Upsala Boys & Girls Basketball to State

*Upsala Boys against Lakeview Christian School BB

*Friday Night Football, Baseball

*Learning woodworking from some of the best craftsman ever. Thanks, Mel, Craig, and Matt.

*Swanville Breakfasts with Camp Directors

*Fishing  Fishing and more Fishing – thanks Bobber Bill

*Christian partnership with neighboring churches

*Heritage Days

*Community Cruisers – I’m still looking for my 1964 Corvair

*The Upsala community I call home.

My heart is overflowing and I can’t write any more memories. (Suzi needs some space for the rest of the newsletter) As it appears, I could go on forever and each moment I reflect brings something new to mind, so I must stop. I’m sure I missed a few key memories, but a grandpa does that. I hope these memories have brought a smile to your face as they did mine.

In closing I say “To God be the Glory”

Andre Crouch’s 70’s song gives words to my heart.

“How can I say thanks for the things
You have done for me?
Things so undeserved yet you gave
To prove your love for me
The voices of a million angels
Could not express my gratitude
All that I am, and ever hope to be
I owe it all to thee
To God be the glory, to God be the glory
To God be the glory for the things he has done
With his blood he has saved me
With his power he has raised me
To God be the glory for the things he has done
Just let me live my life and
Let it be pleasing Lord to thee
And if I gain any praise, let it go to Calvary
With his blood he has saved me
With his power he has raised me
To God be the glory for the things he has done.”

By the way you are all family, and as you know, if you are within a few miles of your family in Mahtowa, you must stop in, the coffee the pot is always on. (Yes, we have a Keurig)  Please come and worship with us if you are in the Mahtowa neighborhood.

Sue and I will be praying for you as God brings you a new Shepherd. Ask God to prepare your heart for their leadership. You are an amazing body of believers. Continue in Christ’s power and unity to reach out and bring people to Jesus Christ and help them grow.

Read Paul’s encouragement to the church in Colossae (just east of Royalton):

3We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people, 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel 6 that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.

 7You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

9For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Yep, that about sums it up.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Craig

 

 

 

 

Article: It’s Time For Harvest! Part 2

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It’s Time For Harvest ! Part 2

It’s May 2016 and I’m excited about the future. In my January newsletter article I wrote, “At this time of the new year we make all sorts of time related statements and ask time related questions.”  One of the main questions for Community Covenant is, “I wonder what we are going to do to make a difference this year.”

As we push into the new year we are reminded of the call and command of Christ on our life and the opportunities to fulfill the mission of Christ. The call to tell the story of Jesus to the tri-county area that God has placed us in. To plant, cultivate, water, and harvest for Christ, is the direction we continue to go. It started in 1888 and we never want to lose that vision.

I then reflected on Harvest Time. I wrote,” Ever since I moved to the country I have loved harvest time.  There is something special about the crops being brought in after all the work that the partnership of God and the farmers do, is done. Truthfully, I prefer watching the big machines as they combine the golden grains. I love the newer S series John Deere because it has a futuristic look that reminds me of Star Wars.  I half expect to see Luke Skywalker stick his head out of the cab. The action of the harvest tells the story of a great purpose of the body of Christ, the church. There are key passages of scripture that encourage us to consider our life and purpose as it relates to harvest. Jesus speaks of his when he tells of the need for all of us to get involved in telling the good news of the Gospel.  35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” (John 4)

The desire to make a difference and the passion for evangelism is taking a newer form for our church and community. It’s newer in it’s structure, not in it’s intent. For since the days of the revival of 1898 and the conversion of Whiskey Pete and his compatriots, evangelism has been in the hearts of the Upsala Community.

On January 24 we had our first meeting at Word of Life Lutheran Church to investigate a community partnership in evangelism. Since that first meeting we have prayed, discussed, trained and formalized the direction of this evangelism partnership. The name “The Bridge” was given to the team of men and women who are a part of this harvest team. The name comes from the plan of God in Christ, in which the cross became the bridge from death to life.

Pastor Clayton Wilfer from Word of Life has given great leadership to us as we have moved forward in this intentional and strategic evangelism movement.

We now have completed the preparation phase of this movement and are heading out to meet, share the Gospel and pray with many of our neighbors in this area.  We currently have 9 teams of 2 and 5 individuals who are committed to going out to meet people at their homes and in the community. If you would like to join in and be willing to share the good news of Jesus, please let me know.

As a team of believers sharing Christ we are trying to keep track of the number of conversations we are having with our friends, neighbors, co-workers and strangers. Every one is called to make disciples so if you have a conversation let me know. If God is talking to you about  sharing to your neighbors about Christ don’t wait to join the “Bridge”, go and tell the story.

Paul explains it best in his letter to the Corinthians .

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s
fie
ld, God’s building.(1 Corinthians  3)

We praise God for what he is doing among us. I invite you to join us in this  harvest adventure. Call if you have questions.

Pastor Craig

 

Article: Walking with the Risen Christ

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13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19 “What things?” he asked. “

At that point in the text, the two men shared all that had happened over the weekend. Then Jesus explained all the prophecies that he fulfilled. When they got to their house, they asked Jesus to stay with them. When they broke bread this amazing event concluded the story.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

What an amazing story after the resurrection. Can you even begin to imagine, what it would have been like, to walk with the risen Lord? What would it have been like to sense our hearts burning as we heard the Lord? Just think if you had been there.

The truth is we don’t have to wonder. We have the same ability to walk, with Jesus our risen Lord, just like the two men on the road to Emmaus. No, we don’t physically see him, but he has promised to be with us every step of the way. We can get up in the morning, walk and talk with him each and every day.  His promise to his disciples, in the sending of the great commission, was simply  “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28

We have known those in our congregation, most who have moved to heaven, who really walked closely with God. They talked with God in a daily conversation, just like the disciples in our Bible Story. Many of them walked through the deep valleys of life, but came out stronger because they were not alone at anytime.

I would encourage you this month, to begin to walk and talk with your Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. Walking  and talking with the risen Lord will surely get your heart burning.

~ Pastor Craig

 

Article: The Traveling Team

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Through out the years in our community, being on a sports team has been important. I loved hearing the stories from our community about folks who played for the school back in the 1930’s. One of our saints, Ethel Nelson, played in those days and enjoyed competing and being a part of the team. In recent days not only do our kids play on the school team they also get to play on special traveling teams to really gear up their game. They play against good competition and sharpen their game as they head out to new towns almost every weekend.

In our walk with Christ this Lenten season, we can think of ourselves as being on a another team as well. So I ask the question, “Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be on the traveling team with Jesus?”

In a true fact of faith the disciples of long ago had an adventure of a life time as they walked and learned from Jesus. The term disciple actually means learner. Through the cities towns and hillsides they spent hour after hour with Jesus. Arguing with the religious leaders, feeding thousands and healing many. You could say they had the most incredible traveling team ever.

It’s the journey of that team that I want to highlight in these next few weeks as we set our sights on Easter. We are going to take at look at events from the life of Jesus as told to Mark by the Apostle Peter.

I hope you attend each week as we watch this team in action and learn the lessons from Jesus’ life.

February 28 – “To Serve or Not To Serve”
Mark 10:32 – 45

March 6 – “What Do You Want?”
Mark 10:46 – 52

March 13 – “The Den of Robbers”
Mark 11:15-19

March 20 – “The Misdirected
Entry” Mark 11:1 – 11

March 27 – “ He has Risen”
Matthew 28:1 – 11

I also want to encourage you to join us in our evangelism emphasis this year. The joy of helping others get to know Jesus cannot be measured. So I’m challenging us to invite someone to church this Easter. What if 300 people crowded our church to hear about the Resurrection and perhaps some of them accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior for the first time?

If we all invite someone who doesn’t attend church some of them will come. It’s probably the one of two Sundays when people are most open to attend a worship service. We are beginning to pray that God will grab our hearts so he can bring in the harvest. Jesus came and called together his team to fulfill his mission to seek and to save the lost. I hope you to will join his traveling team.

Pastor Craig

Article: How do we get there from here?

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“How do we get there from here” is a good and common question we now ask our smart phones on a regular basis when we head off on a trip or new errand. When unsure we can waste a lot of time and energy driving the wrong way and having to “recalculate” as we go.

It’s also not a bad question to ask ourselves each time we begin a new year in our ministry. In February our ministry teams start up for the year. New members are brought on and new plans are discussed . There continues to be a great deal of exciting dreams shared as we continue to “Exalt Christ, Embrace Community , and Extend Compassion”. “Getting There “is a great goal for us in the call to evangelism and making disciples as individuals and as a church. The “How” is the bigger and many times harder question that will shape the next 12 months of ministry. So we begin the annual “trip”, in faith, trusting God with all our hearts. The wonderful proverb from the book of Proverbs chapter 3 sets the course;

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart   and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him,  and he will make your paths straight.

One big foundational part of the “How” is prayer. We begin and end in the power of prayer. It becomes as important to us a breathing and from what I hear, that is really important. Through the leadership of our Prayer Ministry Team, prayer will continued to be lifted up in all areas of our ministry.

The first opportunity to lift it up prayer in a special way is the our Prayer Week held February 14– 21 there will be opportunities for your family time and at church to spend more time in prayer. I hope you will join in that week and help us begin to answer the “How” question as we seek to get “There” in our tri- county ministry for Christ called Community Covenant Church.

God Bless you ,
Pastor Craig

Article: It’s About Time!

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It’s About Time!
It’s the New Year 2016. At this time of the new year we make all sorts of time related statements and ask time related questions. “Time Flies” “Wow another year has passed.” “Where does the time go?” We even sing hymns related to time like “Another year is dawning.”

It is in this time of year when we reflect on the past year and push into the new that we need to be reminded of the call and command of Christ on our life and the opportunities to fulfill the mission of Christ.

There are key passages of scripture that encourage us to consider our life and purpose as it relates to time.

Ecclesiastes 3 makes us think in this way with the favorite passage on the events of our lives.

1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

Mark writes in his Gospel 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Jesus also speaks of his current time when he tells of the need for all of to get involved with telling the good news of Jesus.  35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. (John 4)

Some crops require action once the field is ready for harvest and so it is as we look at the time we have to share the gospel.

This month we are going to focus in on the importance and urgency of evangelism. Through out this year we will be looking on ways that we can let our friends, family, neighbors and the world know about Jesus.

In January I will preach on evangelism and the importance of understanding the times. I hope you will take time to read through the scriptures and consider your call to make disciples. Simply allowing the people around you to know that Jesus is your savior and Lord.

It’s About Time !

January 3rd
The Commission and Need
Acts 1:6 – 11

January 10th
The Urgency part one
Matthew 24:36 – 45

January 17th
The Urgency part two
1 Thessalonians 5:1 – 11

January 24th
The Ways and Means
John 3: 1 – 21

January 31st
The Joy
Acts 2: 42 – 47

Our theme for 2016 is also centered on evangelism. We will be stepping up our individual and church wide efforts to tell the good news of Jesus Christ. We will have opportunities for training and special events to encourage and inspire us to share our faith through words and actions.

On January 24 at 7:00pm we are having a meeting to talk about this year, contacting all our neighbors in a 10 – 15 mile radius and talking to them about their faith. We would like to make contacts in each of your neighborhoods to invite people to follow Jesus Christ and invite them to the church.

We have the privilege, like the angels on the hills outside of Bethlehem, to share the same story; “And the angel said to them, Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Let’s spread the word.

Pastor Craig