Prayer Summit

For 15 years pastors and leaders of Christian ministries in Washtenaw County have been stepping aside from the press of ministry to take several days simply to be before the Throne of God and seek his face on behalf of our County. The annual Pastors Prayer Summit, as it is called, drew together 25 leaders from widely different backgrounds to pray with one voice for most of 3 days at the beginning of February. The Summit got off to a late start on Monday, 2/3 due to 14 inches of snow which blanketed the area Sunday night. However, by mid-afternoon everyone had dug out and were able to make their way down to Michindoh Conference Center near Hillsdale, Michigan. The ‘Summiteers’ are used to persevering, not only through the usual poor weather that time of year, but through other obstacles, personal and spiritual. Prayer is spiritual warfare. But the Lord is faithful and has worked powerfully in the Summits over the years. May of the participants feel it is a highlight of the year for them.

One of the most significant aspects of the Summit is that it brings together leaders from such diverse backgrounds. In the relatively small group of 25 folks we had mainline and independent church pastors, men and women, African-American and white, Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor and beyond, old and young, charismatic and traditional, and more! Despite these differences, we experienced being ‘one in Christ’ as we worshiped, prayed for one another, and interceded for our County.

Toward the end of the meeting the pastors from the eastern side of the County issued a brotherly challenge to those on the western side to see who could bring more new folks next year. May they both win so that more pastors and leaders are able to enter into the sense of partnership in the Gospel that the Lord forges through the Prayer Summit.

Annual Concert of Prayer -- Marilyn Geyer

The annual Concert of Prayer at The Bible Church on January 21st was really something. It was very well attended. God seemed very present. The prayer-leaders were dynamic, enthusiastic, and friendly. People jumped right into praying with each other as if we've been friends for years. Bill Kangas did a great job leading worship. The Bible Church was very welcoming. I felt we really were brothers and sisters. People seemed to get along very well together. Some of us stayed pretty late! It was wonderful having so many pastors at the prayer service. I recognized Pastor Mike Frison (Knox Presbyterian, PACT) and Phil Tiews (The Word of God, PACT, Covenant Presbyterian) Pastor Ted Jungkuntz (St Luke Lutheran) and Pastor Bryan Schindel (Cross & Resurrection Lutheran), Deacon Rich Badics (St Francis Catholic) Rev, Levon Yuille (The Bible Church) Pastor Tom Humphrey (Church of the Nazarene, PACT) and Pastor Mike Byrum (Summit International, PACT). There may have been more! Special thanks to Phil Tiews for putting the service together and Deacon Rich for jumping in to help on pretty short notice (and doing a GREAT job.)

Marilyn Geyer

National Day of Prayer, May 1

On Thursday, May 1, Christian across America will be gathering at City Halls, Legislature Buildings, Schools and Churches to pray for our nation as part of the annual National Day of Prayer (www.nationaldayofprayer.org ).  The theme for this year is ‘Investing in Hope... Transforming our Nation Through Prayer!’.  Locally there will be an observation at the Federal Building in Ann Arbor from 12:15 pm to 12:45 pm led by Pastor Mike Frison from Knox Presbyterian Church and sponsored by PACT.  All are invited to join us for a time of quiet prayer and intercession.  There will also be an observation in Ypsilanti, but the details are still being determined. If you can’t make it to one of the public prayer time, please take a few minutes that day to join in praying for our city, county, state and nation.

Cry out to the Lord with One Voice

It was snowing and in single digits outside but a faithful band from churches around Washtenaw County gathered at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church on Wednesday, January 22nd to ‘Cry out to the Lord with One Voice’, the twelfth annual Concert of Prayer marking the Octave of Christian Unity, Martin Luther King’s birthday, and the anniversary of Roe v Wade. For more than a decade churches in the Ann Arbor – Ypsilanti area have rotated hosting this evening of intercession to pray for the important issues of the division among Christians, the need for racial reconciliation, the preservation of life and the urgency for transformation in Christ. Interweaving Scripture, worship, brief messages from several pastors and congregational participation, the evening brought people together before the Throne of God, fulfilling Jesus’ command to ‘watch and pray’. You can go to www.pact-washtenaw.org to get information about next year’s Concert of Prayer and other news of inter-church cooperation in Washtenaw County.

Chaplains in the Ypsilanti Schools

Pastors in the ‘Love Ypsi’ network have been building relationships with Ypsilanti school officials over the last year. They first got involved following the suicide of a young high school girl. When they asked the Ypsilanti High School principal what they could do to help, he invited them to come and be available to students who wanted to talk with someone as they processed this tragedy. With the combining of the Ypsilanti and Willow Run school districts this Fall, school officials have anticipated a greater need for community involvement. They have asked the ‘Love Ypsi’ group to provide pastors who can just be present at the new High School and Middle School every hour school is in session! They would like them to walk the halls, talk with students, and be available if there is a need for more.

What an opportunity! Tony Weatherly, who has been largely responsible for the bridge-building, sees this as a major breakthrough and a great opportunity for the Church to serve the real needs of the broader community – and bring a Kingdom presence right into the heart of the schools.

Obviously, it will take a lot of involvement for many pastors to cover the need, so pray for the Ypsilanti pastors to catch the vision and invest the time to step into this Kairos moment – the time is now, the Kingdom of God is at hand!

Hosanna 2013 on March 24 -- CANCELLED

Due to a variety of factors, the Pastors Alliance for County Transformation has announced that they will not be holding the annual Palm Sunday worship celebration called Hosanna. Folks from churches across Washtenaw County have been getting together for a ‘mosaic’ of worship styles and forms to welcome the Lord Jesus in our County on Palm Sunday since 2001. Organizers are hoping to gather churches for planning and participation in time to celebrate Hosanna 2014 next year, on Palm Sunday, April 14, 2014.

40 Days of Prayer Unites County in Intercession

Logo40Days

It has been said that God comes where He is invited. That is what the churches and ministries involved in the 40 Days of Prayer are doing, inviting God to come to our County and transform it. More than a dozen groups and hundreds of people will be praying continuously from February 22, Ash Wednesday, to April 1, Palm Sunday. That afternoon they will be joined by hundreds more as the prayer vigil culminates in the Hosanna celebration.

Each church or ministry takes a 2 day block and organizes folks to pray around the clock. Some groups set up a central prayer room and others have folks pray in their home. Whatever method employed, the end result is ‘day and night’ prayer for God to transform Washtenaw County and beyond. Along the way the Lord stirs the hearts of more and more folks to faith and hope for His kingdom to come in our midst.

In addition to the continuous prayer, each evening there is an open prayer meeting from 7 to 8 pm at the church praying that day. This provides an opportunity for Christians from other churches to get involved and for those churches who are not currently keeping 24-hour vigil to stay involved through the whole 40 Days. Everyone is invited to come to as many of these as you can to share in the county-wide prayer and get to know brothers and sisters from other bodies in the County. You can get a complete schedule and the locations at www.JesusTsunami.com .

2012 Concert of Prayer on January 18 @ 7:30

At the darkest part of the year, in the dead cold of January, Christians from across Washtenaw County have been gathering for years to cry out with one voice for God to shine His light and send His fire on our County! The evening of intercession which incorporates many different styles of prayer has been hosted in rotation by different churches. This year the Concert of Prayer will be at the Bible Church, 611 East Cross Street in Ypsilanti, pastored by Elder Levon Yuille. Because the third week in January marks the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, the birthday of Martin Luther King, and the Octave of Christian Unity, the Concert focuses on the themes of Life, Racial Reconciliation and Christian Unity. But we also take time to pray for Revival because we know that for real change to take place in the other areas, people need to turn to Jesus and be filled with His Spirit!

Come and join with your brothers and sisters from churches from many different theological backgrounds, racial makeups, and worship styles as we ‘Cry with One Voice’ for our God to break in on Washtenaw County.

United Public School Outreach this fall

The students of Washtenaw County have been a prayer focus for the IMPACT prayer room and intercession in general for many years. It is looking like the Spirit is moving now in response to our prayer as doors are opening and churches are coming together for an outreach to public schools this fall. Churches in PACT and others are working together to bring Reggie Dabbs to speak at school assemblies September 26-28. (go to http://reggiedabbsonline.com/ for more info) Reggie is the #1 school motivational speaker in the nation and will be addressing the vital issue of bullying. He has a big impact on kids at their school assemblies, and then he invites them to evening rallies where he can preach the Gospel as the true answer to their issues. Area churches will be sponsoring his appearances and working together to follow up with young people who respond at the evening meetings. The goal is to not only bring the students to a point of decision but to get them into a living connection with a local body where they can receive support and discipleship. MissionChrist will be doing what we can to support this outreach. In the process of talking with local schools, we have discovered that the Lord has His servants in many strategic places in the County. The new principal at Ypsilanti High School is a committed Christian who has worked with Young Life in the past and is eager to have the churches involved in reaching out to kids at his school. He even gave some great ideas for how to go about it! The wife of one area pastor is the principal at Ypsilanti Middle School and there are also Christian principals serving at least two Ann Arbor middle schools. These are examples of how the Lord deploys His people into all of society to bring the influence of His Kingdom—the theme for our Fall Retreat!

Let’s pray for a great mobilization of the churches to reach the young people in our public schools and for the Spirit to grant them the grace of repentance and faith! This is a major front on the spiritual battle in our day and we need to Lord to supply a break through!

EACH at work!

Giving Everyone a Chance to Hear – and to experience- God’s love in Southeast Michigan is the goal of EACH. It really amounts to the Church being the Church, witnessing in word and deed to God’s saving work in Jesus Christ. And a lot is happening. The 530+ churches and ministries involved in EACH have been telling their 2WordStories, tens of thousands of folks have come to the 2WordStory.com site, there have been medical clinics and resource fairs, site clean-ups, and even flash mobs! Many of us in The Word of God have been wearing our 2WordStory shirts and have gotten into conversations with folks who are curious what all the buzz is about. Often these exchanges are brief, but a few have developed into meaningful discussions. Look for sharings from folks at this site in the days ahead.

Several EACH groups in Washtenaw County decided to join in serving our neighbors through the YpsiPride Day on Saturday, May 21. We worked alongside other volunteers to cleanup and beautify sites all over town. A great opportunity to show some practical love, and get in yet more conversations about our 2WordStories, and some of our co-workers’ stories, too!

This coming Saturday, 5/28, Teresa Reimer has spearheaded an outreach to collect deposit bottles and cans to support a clinic in the Congo and non-perishable food for the local food pantry at Hope Clinic. We will be going through the Geyer’s neighborhood inviting folks to join in helping those in need – the Lord’s compassion in us mobilizing compassion in others.

This is a season when the Lord is stirring the Church in Southeast Michigan, and preparing folks’ hearts for the seed of the Gospel. Let’s be actively praying, sharing, and serving and see what God will do!

EACH Detroit Prayer Walk

20,000 people crowded outside Comerica Park in downtown Detroit, but they weren’t waiting for the Tigers to play. There were there to pray for the Lion to roar! Saturday April 16, the day before Christians celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, people from all over Southeast Michigan gathered in Detroit to cry out for the Lion of Judah to enter and heal our region. They came from city and suburb, from different races, and from different denominations, but they came together with one heart. Everyone A Chance to Hear (EACH) had united them in a common vision to pray for our region, to share the good news, and to express the Gospel in good deeds over the 40 days after Easter. Now was the time to root the campaign in prayer with one voice.

The day didn’t start out promisingly. It was pouring down rain. This was particularly ironic because Chuck Gaidica, the weatherman for Channel 4 TV, was the moving force behind the prayer walk! As a sign of blessing, though, God the true Weatherman, caused the rain to stop and the sun to break out just as worship began that morning. The rain held off during the whole prayer walk down Woodward to Hart Plaza and back, and then began again afterward. There has been a sense of the Spirit moving as EACH has developed from a handful of churches to over 500, and this seemed to be a further confirmation that the Lord wants to visit Detroit and Southeast Michigan at this time.

For more information on the EACH campaign go here and here or to the www.eachtoday.com web site. Let’s keep praying for the Lord to open hearts and bring people to life in the Son in the coming days. Detroit and our region has been dying in the natural. May the Kingdom of God break in to bring it back to life!

What will Jesus find when he visits SE Michigan?

The churches and ministries which are involved in the EACH outreach, including us in The Word of God,  are convinced that this is a critical hour for Detroit and the SE Michigan region.  The practical, economic and human crises are obvious.  But the question is ‘What is God doing in this hour?’  Our answer is that he has allowed us to come to this pass so that we are prepared for a visitation.  In this hour he wants to come to our region to bring transformation to people and through them to our area.  This is an exciting & hopeful thought!  But the questions arises, ‘what will Jesus find when he visits SE Michigan?’  In Luke 18 Jesus tells the parable of the persistent or,  to use the old word,  importunate widow who pesters the unjust judge until he gives her justice.  Encouraging us to be equally persistent in prayer he concludes, ‘I tell you, he (God) will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?’   That is a haunting question.  When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?  Jesus was amazed by the faith of the Centurion with the sick servant, but he agonized over the ‘little faith’ of his disciples at times.  In Matthew 13 Jesus visits his hometown of Nazareth and we are told in v 58, ‘And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.’    We know our region needs the powerful in-breaking of the Kingdom of God.  We need lots of miracles when Jesus comes.  He is coming, but what will he find among his people?  We do not expect those who have yet to know him to receive him with faith, but how about we who do?  It would be very possible for us to go through the motions with the EACH campaign, sort of give it a quick nod while we go about normal life, thinking it would be nice if something happened, but we don’t expect much.  Jesus could come and find little faith – and so not do many miracles in our hometown.   But we have a choice.  We can turn our hearts to the Lord in great earnestness for our region and cry out in prayer.  We can be persistent like the widow and the saints who cry out night in day in Luke 18.  We can invest ourselves in being a witness in words and in deeds of service – sacrificially for the 40 Days of the EACH campaign.  We can respond to Jesus’ coming with faith expressed in prayer and action.  And he could do more than just a few miracles, he could do wonderful things, transforming things in the lives of people and our region.   Jesus is coming to our region with a desire to save.  Let him find faith among his people to join him in his mission.   --  Phil Tiews

EACH -- Vision

each VISION brings churches together for Gospel “And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region” (Acts 13:49).

They saturated their world with the gospel. No tools; just “good news”.

“When they came to Greece, the people said, “These men who have turned the world upside down have now come here!” (Acts 17:6). What an amazing achievement.

J. B. Phillips said, “Perhaps if we believed what they believed, we might achieve what they achieved.” He was right. We believe the same good news; we just don’t move with the same confidence and passion.

E.A.C.H. calls us to turn our region upside down with the gospel. It’s about the body of Christ coming together to give everyone a chance to hear the life-changing, eternity-rescuing message of amazing grace . . . in 40 days.

TIME magazine wrote: “Detroit has become an icon of the failed American city.” Ouch! But really, they’re right. Their closing line reads like a challenge to the body of Christ: “The world is watching Detroit to see if it can find a way to rise from the ashes.”

We know the way. Will we make the Way known, conspicuously, loudly, thoroughly?

May it someday be written of the body of Christ in metro-Detroit: “And the word of the Lord was being spread through THEIR whole region.”

Now is our time to give Everyone A Chance to Hear.

This is the vision behind EACH – Everyone A Chance to Hear. 300 churches and ministries in Southeach Michigan have already joined together to saturate our region with the word of the Lord – in word and deed! You can learn more by going to www.EACHtoday.com.

If your church is not already involved, share about EACH with your pastor and urge him to join the movement to impact our region in its hour of need with the hope and life of the Gospel.

EACH – an initiative for Everyone A Chance to Hear the gospel in SE Michigan

Almost 200 churches in the metro Detroit and SE Michigan area are coming together to pray for our region and point toward a saturation outreach of ‘good news and good deeds’ in the 40 days after Easter 2011.  What began as an idea of one church to reach its neighborhood has mushroomed into a regional movement as the Spirit has impressed on many churches the urgency of this time in the history of SE Michigan.  You can get more information on EACH at their web site www.EACHtoday.com .  The PACT network of churches and ministries, including The Word of God, are discerning how the Lord might want them to engage with this initiative.  There are great similarities between how the Lord has led PACT and EACH including a deep conviction about the priority of cooperation and the foundational position of prayer in any Kingdom enterprise.  During these initial phases of EACH churches are urged to pray, networks of intercessors are being mobilized, and large prayer gatherings are taking place.  The 40 days before Easter, which most churches celebrate as Lent of course, will be a time of fasting and prayer for the region.  Beginning with Easter, there will be some coordinated ‘macro-strategies’ launched such as ad campaigns, possibly a major march, etc., and each participating organization will launch the ‘micro-strategies’ the Lord has given them for their area.  The 40 days of outreach will conclude with a major celebration, possible at Ford Field, and then plans for follow-up and discipleship of new believers will be initiated.   The Spirit is stirring the church to love, unity, and mission.  Regardless of how The Word of God and PACT gets involved, let’s be praying for the Lord to work through EACH to bring thousands to himself and further the transformation of our region.

Jesus Tsunami . . .

Saturday night, September 26, 2010 the water started rising on the Jesus Tsunami! Christians in Washtenaw County under the leadership of Pastor Mike Byrum of the IMPACT prayer room and Pastor Joseph Son of Ann Arbor Korean Church to the first step in a path that they hope will lead to 10,000 Christians praying daily! The vision is to have these brothers and sisters coordinate their daily prayers through a web site, www.JesusTsunami.com and then gather monthly for a time of corporate prayer. The first meeting was a good start. Folks for many churches were present and there was a strong presence of young folks, including the worship team. Check out the web site which is still under development for more information and vision and get ready to join the wave of prayer which the Spirit is stirring. May the Lord use it to usher in Kingdom transformation in our County!

Brannstroms lead San Antonio Outreach

Brannstroms lead San Antonio Outreach Berta and Rune Brannstrom, former members of The Word of God are living in San Antonio, Texas, these days and heading up a ministry called the Nehemiah Intiative [see web site].  They have continued a mission to bring renewal and unity to the churches in their city.  Over the past year they organized a group of churches which targeted a particularly tough part of San Antonio known as the West Side.  Intercessors adopted all 160 streets in this area and prayed daily for them.

This summer over 40 churches joined in an outreach call SA2:10Call which ran for 8 days.  During that time 3 Vacation Bible Schools were offered, there was a job fair, a backpack give away, a festival with music, free haircuts and more.  Teams went to businesses and offered to pray for them.  In the process of blessing the business, several people gave their lives to the Lord and there were some healings!

God is at work brining transformation to cities all over the world – and he wants to do it here in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County!  Let’s keep praying and serving as he leads us.

You can read more about the SA2:10Call in the note below from Rune Brannstrom to voluteers and hear a bit in the following video clip.

Dear SA210Call Volunteers and Friends of Nehemiah Initiative,

Greetings in the Name of King Jesus!  Thank you for making the West Side Outreach a great success!  Thank you for your faithfulness and for your patience in flowing with necessary changes in plans as we went along.  None of us can see the full picture of all God did.  Only God knows.  But one thing is certain.  The atmosphere on the West Side of San Antonio will never be the same.  God’s people joined together in unity to bring the love and the light of Jesus Christ to a once dark part of our city.  And you made a difference.

Some of the praise reports are:

  • Approximately 400 volunteers from nearly 40 local churches and ministries crossed denominational, racial and cultural lines to participate.

 

  • Several thousand adults, youth and children were served in different ways during the week.

 

  • Vacation Bible School (VBS) took place in five locations during the week.  On Friday a couple hundred of very excited children enjoyed games and food at the West End Park and Garrett Center at the grand finale party!  They shouted, sang and quoted Scriptures to an adoring crowd of parents and friends.  The impact God made in their lives was obvious on their faces.

 

  • Thanks to the clowns, face painters, and hot dog, cold drinks and pop corn servers. You made many youngsters happy!

 

  • Hundreds of adults went through our health screening and job/education fair.

 

  • Several teams visited businesses in our target area and asked if they could pray for them. Most were open to prayer resulting in several salvations and healings.  One man at a beauty salon wanted his wife prayed for but didn’t want any part of it himself.  He ended up giving his life to the Lord and receiving healing for his back that was scheduled for surgery the following week.

 

  • An amazing team of intercessors, both Catholic and Evangelical representing various prayer organizations, joined forces to create a protective canopy of prayer, 24/7, over the target area, the leadership and the volunteers. The effect was tangible.

 

  • One house was renovated and there are already plans for the second one.

 

  • Several West Side churches participated, especially in providing lunches for the volunteers throughout the week.

 

  • About 800 children received back packs and school supplies and many also took advantage of the free haircuts. Our hair cutters stood for hours—true heroes.

 

  • We partnered with District 1 Councilwoman Mary Alice Cisneros and her assistant, Milli Hohensee for the job fair and the back pack giveaway.

 

  • The talent show was an excellent way to welcome the community to participate in the festivities and the number one winner was a mime group from one of the West Side churches, St. Luke’s Baptist Church.

 

  • Our volunteers at our prayer booth prayed for over 70 people and several healings occurred.

 

  • Thanks to all of our musicians, singers, dancers and set-up and take-down people for their hard work.

 

  • Thanks to all the servants who took care of countless details and to the Boy Scouts, who took care of cleaning up the grounds on the last night.

 

  • A team from Crossbridge Church, who had been praying for that specific area, approached a staff member at one of the elementary schools to ask permission to pray on the school grounds.  The staff member introduced them to the principal who said, “Why do you want to pray out there?  It’s hot.  Come inside and pray.”  They were escorted by the school counselor into every corridor of the school where they prayed, welcomed the presence of God and blessed every classroom, staff member and student who would later attend school there.

 

  • On Thursday evening, a staff person for an elected official asked the speaker to make declarations over the West Side to break strongholds. A powerful time of prayer ensued.  The following day a major prostitution ring in the target area was busted by the San Antonio Police Department!  

 

  • The following media covered the SA210Call: KDRY, KTSA, KEDA, WOAI, Telemundo, Univision, The Beacon and The Southside Reporter.  KDRY.com and CityPact.com have reports and videos.

 

In His Joy,

Rune Brannstrom and the Nehemiah Initiative Team

A Champion of Unity Passes Away

The church in Washtenaw County lost a great servant when Apostle Robert Hill of Christian Love Fellowship went home to the Lord on June 22.  Apostle Hill was the founding pastor of Christian Love Fellowship and had ministered in the area from the early 70’s.  In addition to raising up and overseeing a number of pastors and churches in different parts of the country, he helped found Power, Inc., a community development ministry here in Washtenaw county.  Apostle Hill was a founding member of the Pastors Alliance for County Transformation and served as the head of its Directional Team until the last few years when he battled ill health.  Many of us will remember him from the Hosanna events.  He often spoke and sometimes led a choir at these County-wide Palm Sunday celebrations.  He was a champion of Christian unity, especially concerned to see the divisions between Afro-American churches and other churches bridged.

Brotherly love was a very strong value for Apostle Hill and he emphasized that any real unity among the churches in our area had to be built on genuine relationship among the pastors, and the people.  He not only talked about this, but modeled it in the way he personally interacted with other leaders and the way he led his church to interact with other groups in the County.

Robert’s wife and co-pastor, Barbara, is carrying on the leadership of Christian Love Fellowship, so let’s pray for her, their family and the church.  And ask the Lord to raise up other champions of unity for His Body here in our County.

Sharing a vision of God’s Kingdom in our County -- PACT May, 2010

Pact01In May, 70 pastors and church leaders from across Washtenaw County met together for the periodic Vision Lunch sponsored by Pastors Alliance for County Transformation (PACT). Over the years these have been important occasions for folks involved in serving the Lord in their different ministries to meet face-to-face with other Kingdom servants and begin to build relationships. It is amazing how little ‘cross-fertilization’ takes place ordinarily between churches and other ministries without deliberate efforts like the Vision Lunch. Pact02In addition to fostering personal contact, the Vision Lunch is an opportunity to stretch everyone’s view regarding God’s work in our County. Different folks share about what they experience Him doing. This year we were blessed to hear from Pastor Joseph Son of the Korean Church of Ann Arbor.

Pact03In the last several years since he has come from Korea, the church has experienced rapid growth to over 400. However, as he has prayed, the Lord has shown him the strategic importance of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti as the home to so many international people who are destined to be leaders in their home countries. Reaching them is a vital task and it will require the whole Church in our County.

Pact04A growing group of churches in Washtenaw County are praying and beginning to plan for a county-wide public school outreach. The developing vision for this was shared at the lunch, as well. There is a nation-wide ministry called Youth Alive which has an outreach entitled the ’7 project’. They work with coalitions of local churches to prepared Christians in the public schools to reach out to their peers and then do a series of ‘values based’ assemblies in the schools. There the students get solid advice about answers to 6 key issues facing youth, but if they want to hear about a 7th answer that covers them all, they are invited to come to an evening event. At this multi-media event they hear the gospel and get a chance to give their lives to Christ. This is where the churches come in, following up on those new believers and others who indicate that they are seeking.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic for the churches in Washtenaw County to work together for such an outreach to the next generation! Stay tuned for further developments!

Interdenominational Blessing -- Martha Balmer

BalmerMarthaIII am absolutely confident that the Lord is calling Christians of all denominations to bless one another across the denominational lines that separate them. I believe that this mandate has a glorious purpose beyond anything we have imagined possible for the Church as we know it. Doctrinal arguments, cultural biases and historical resentments all have a very real hold on the Church’s throat, but in our lifetime we have seen an outpouring of grace for unity across denominational lines that as far as I can tell is unprecedented. I believe that the exhortation to mutual blessing is not only authentically prophetic, but that it is being delivered on a tidal wave of this timely grace. If we obey and bless one another, we will see a greater harvest than we can plant—a restoration of the Body of Christ that our imaginations are too limited to picture. If we hope to be obedient to this word, we need to make a decision to turn our current church-view over to God for a possible overhaul.

Implications of being the Body The Apostle Paul loved to liken the Church to a human body. In I Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and Romans 12, he used this image to illustrate both our variety and our unity because the metaphor worked on so many levels. We are a single body, made up of many distinct organs that perform essential and interdependent functions for the health of the whole. None of us can survive alone, and each of us is necessary to the others.

It is a fairly simple thing, and quite correct, to apply these passages to the local church body, since the gifts Paul lists are all ministries that may belong to individuals or to small groups of believers in a single congregation. It is also easy to apply them to an entire denomination, with its governing body, delegated ministries, and missionary efforts. But in order to bless one another interdenominationally, we need to apply these passages interdenominationally. I don’t believe that Paul intended to exclude their application to the worldwide Church in all its diversity.

Such an application is not far-fetched, because Paul himself uses the body illustration in a greater sense. We are not just any old body. We are the Body of Christ— male, female, Jew and Greek, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free. Since our Lord’s ascension, we together are His incarnation to the world. A lot rests on our health and well being. Christ himself prayed for our unity (John 17), and Paul’s pastoral letters are full of exhortations and instruction specifically aimed at encouraging or restoring the unity of the body.

Unity under attack So much rests on our unity, in fact, that our Enemy has been waging an intense battle against it since the Church’s earliest days. Satan has attempted to tear the Bride limb from limb and has had great success, as any perusal of Church history will prove. The first century Christians were repeatedly harassed by division (see for instance I Corinthians 1:10-12, Acts 15, Philippians 4:2-3, and I Corinthians 11:17-22). Doctrinal arguments rose over the ensuing centuries, along with geographical and political divisions that finally did split the church into East and West. Infighting and corruption within the western church even resulted in the short-lived embarrassment of having three simultaneous popes in the early 15th century. Eventually, with the Reformation—like a man who allowed himself to commit a sin for the first time and then never again enjoyed his former level of self-control—the Church began to splinter into its current, multi-denominational form.

But for those who love God and are called according to his purpose, all things work together for good, even things our enemy meant for our destruction.

Looking back at our history, it is possible to see that many times our conflicts and alienation chastised us, eventually producing the very reforms that we had so vehemently resisted. (Catholic clergy no longer sell indulgences, and Methodist churches no longer charge a fee for the use of a pew, for instance.) And though sometimes we seem to have become so different that we can no longer see any family resemblance, isn’t it the gaps between us that have brought our varied gifts into sharper focus and often made us painfully—and fruitfully—aware of our insufficiency? Could it be irrelevant, for instance, that during the last century so many liturgically conservative denominations had an influx of Pentecostal experience?

Together reflecting His glory We are not meant to function on our own. At the very least, none of us is attractive to the whole pool of the unconverted. Some of us excel in scholarship, others in evangelism, others in prophecy and still others in ministry to the poor. Some of us are liturgical, some spontaneous, some mystical, some pragmatic. Some of us lean into tradition and others tend toward innovation. Some of us are pacifists. Some of us are militant. Some of us love simplicity and others delight in lavish expressions of praise.

I guarantee that if we are meant to reflect the complete image of Christ, none of us can possibly imagine the richness of variety we will have to contain. God is greater than we think, and more than any of us can represent alone. Our personal experience, tradition, culture or taste cannot possibly encompass his attributes, and yet he has called us to reflect his glory.

I suspect we can pretty much take for granted that none of us will be comfortable with all of it. I doubt that any of us is currently capable of complete fearlessness at the prospect of genuine unity. Our opinions are strong and have centuries of history behind them. In my experience, for example, the average Protestant can’t tolerate the idea (I’m putting this mildly) that the Body of Christ is ultimately meant to look Roman Catholic. Likewise, no devout Catholic can envision the solution otherwise. Pentecostals may be unable to imagine that our restoration could possibly include “dead ritual,” and Lutherans might shudder at the possibility of unfettered “disorder.”

Gaining through giving I believe that the essential function of the acts of blessing God has prepared for us is to restore the mutual benefit of each part to the whole. The prospect before us is not one of loss, as though we were being asked to give up the very distinction that we love about ourselves. It is rather a prospect of riches unimaginable, as we receive from one another out of our storehouses and find ourselves able to do all things in the One who strengthens us.

I believe that as we contemplate the restoration that mutual blessing will bring, our greatest temptation will be fear. But if we entrust the results to God, we know we are committing ourselves to someone who is absolutely trustworthy—and whose ultimate plan for us is not only utterly good, but also simply right. What greater aspiration could we have as a people than to reflect His image purely at last? As the Apostle John wrote, “Dear friends… what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when it is made known, we shall be like Him.” (I John 3:2)