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ELAM Ministries

Outreach Ministries Partner — Leawood Campus

Keyvan was an orphan in Iran and always wondered, “Who is my family?” At age 18 he began searching. He grew desperate and decided to pray to Jesus, “Who is my family?” Soon after, he found his family. This experience led Keyvan to give his life to Jesus.

There are literally thousands and thousands of people like Keyvan all across Iran. They have had some sort of experience that has led them to become a Christian. But this is not the end of their story. It is just the beginning.

In time Keyvan got connected with Elam Ministries and was invited to a conference. There he said, “I have believed in Jesus for two years now, but I keep sleeping around. I don’t feel this is right, and I am miserable.”

The leader looked at him with love and said, “Keyvan, Jesus loves you, and He is calling you to deeper repentance. You must give up your former life.” That evening Keyvan came forward for prayer and repentance. Later that night he was baptized.

This is discipleship. While it is wonderful that people are finding eternal salvation in Christ, without discipleship, people are left in their mess and misery.

There are now hundreds of thousands of Iranian believers all across Iran. Many more are in neighboring countries. This new season has many joys but it also comes with many challenges.

Elam Ministries is working in this region, and is an outreach partner with Christ Community’s Leawood Campus. Elam is at a critical juncture. Millions could be added to the Persian-speaking church. However, discipleship must keep pace with evangelism.

For this to happen, the whole church must be mobilized to be disciple-makers. Elam has given much prayer and thought to how they can enable ordinary believers to do effective one-on-one discipleship. Here is what is being done…

In January 2108, Elam launched a new one-on-one discipleship initiative called Safar (Persian for “journey”) to mobilize the Persian-speaking church on a larger scale than ever before.

The trained leaders serving on the ground are calling Safar a game-changer. Drawing on decades of experience in discipling Iranians, Safar pairs a new believer one-on-one with a hamsafar (co-journeyer) for the first 100 days of the new believer’s life. There are around 30 steps in the journey, one for every three to four days. The process is deeply biblical, relational, and practical.

Already, many have been mobilized as hamsafars, and this discipleship method is being used in Iran and other countries in that region, as well as among Persian-speaking refugees in Europe. Deep discipleship is taking place, and new believers are growing in their faith.

The impact has already been profound. “After just four steps in Safar, Reza opened up more than in the previous six months of discipling him,” remarked one hamsafar.

Now believers are reading their Bibles regularly. One pastor said, “It is encouraging to see so many engaging with the Scriptures.” People are grasping their identity in Christ, learning to forgive others, and overcoming fears.

Evangelism is increasing and Elam is regularly hearing testimonies of people coming to faith as those being discipled grow in courage and ability to witness to family and friends.

Will you pray for this growing church in the Persian-speaking region? Please pray that those who are new believers will be assigned a discipler to walk them through the 100-day journey to know the Lord Jesus Christ and follow Him as a disciple.

Heart for Hope

Coleman Barnes was a typical high school student. Involved in deep friendships, focused on class work, participated in extracurriculars, preparing for the future after graduation. Coleman was not so typical in the fact that, at the young age of 18, he had already begun to leave a legacy of lasting impact: Coleman worked to make a way for five kids in Jamaica to attend school for the next five years.

Coleman traveled with Student Ministries from Christ Community’s Leawood Campus in partnership with Won by One for two summers to Harmons, Jamaica. While there, he fell in love with the people, the food, and the kids they served. As he spoke with local parents, they shared how inaccessible education was for them. They shared how they had to decide whether to send their kids to school or put food on the table.

Coleman could not imagine the cost of such a choice. Food or education? If families picked food on the table, their children’s futures were limited; if they chose education, their children might starve. It was a dangerous cycle of poverty that represented heartache.

One morning Coleman was talking with a Jamaican woman named Sandra. She teared up as she told him the news that her little daughter had been sponsored for school. She was overwhelmed with joy that her daughter would have an opportunity she never had: to receive an education so someday she could be able to provide for her family and break this poverty cycle. As Coleman saw how much school sponsorship meant to this family, he knew he wanted to get involved.

Coleman left Jamaica after that week of serving, but the desire to make a difference didn’t leave him. Challenged in one of his leadership classes at school to make an impact on behalf of others, Coleman immediately thought of Jamaica and the idea of educational scholarships. As a high school student, he did not have the money to sponsor a child, even at $40 a month. So he enlisted a couple of friends, Laken and Jack, to help begin dreaming of a way for students at Blue Valley West High School to collectively make a difference in the lives of kids in Jamaica. Heart for Hope was born with the idea to have each class at school raise money to sponsor a child in Jamaica and make it a friendly competition to raise $5,000.

Coleman, Laken, and Jack had a three-pronged approach to getting five Jamaican students sponsored for two years of school. First, English Language Arts classes at every grade level would introduce, by video, the students to the Jamaican child their class would be sponsoring. These videos would provide a face, a name, and a story to build connection and motivate that class to bring their loose change and dollars to sponsor their child. Second, they sold Heart for Hope T-shirts for $10 and encouraged everyone attending the basketball game that week to wear them and make a schoolwide statement of hope. They sold over 450 shirts. Third, they put together a silent auction of donated items at that basketball game.

Watch the video that Coleman and his friends put together for their fundraiser.

Coleman, Laken, and Jack were blown away as fellow students brought more than loose change to the donation jars. Students gave $10 and $20 bills and the money began adding up. The ambitious goal of $5,000 in two weeks to support five kids for two years of education was completely shattered! Coleman and his peers were able to raise $12,000 to help five kids— Rahein, Atalia, Aleana, Victor, and Sashante—for five years each through school, which genuinely changed their lives.

Coleman said, “We were truly blown away by the response we had for Heart for Hope, and it’s been so cool for me to see our school come together and get behind kids they don’t know and will never meet.”

Coleman has seen God on display in the hearts of fellow students who said: I want to make a difference, and I want to provide hope to these kids and make a tangible impact on their lives. For Coleman, it’s been unbelievable to see the incredible generosity of his peers and God’s faithfulness through this whole process.

“Heart for Hope,” written by Dawn Heckert, originally appeared as an article in Homefront magazine, June 2018 edition, pp. 38-39.

Rice Noodles, Cross-Cultural Relationships, and a Stronger Faith

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Without cross-cultural relationships, following Jesus is more difficult. After spending close to three weeks in China over the course of three months, what I found is that it is hard to see how Jesus has saved me in my culture until I see how Jesus has saved people in other cultures. Working with our global partner, the China Partnership, has made following Jesus easier for me. There are many reasons this is true, some shallow, some profound.

First, the shallow.

Eating Chinese food makes it easier to believe in God. I am not joking. Most of my time spent in China was in the Yunnan province, in the city of Kunming, which is famous for two things: its rice noodles and tea (called Pu’er Tea). It was amazing to see what the people of China could do with rice, grinding it into flour and mixing it with water to produce a noodle. A noodle so good I ate it three times a day and still craved more.

Experiencing the food and drink in China was a reminder of the creative capacity human beings have, all of us made in the image of God. It may sound shallow, but eating with my brothers and sisters in China strengthened my faith. It is much easier to follow Jesus when you have cross-cultural relationships.

Food is one reason; here is another.

In my two trips to China, I was lucky enough to be able to worship in a house church. I use the word “lucky” intentionally. Most house churches do not open their doors to westerners for fear of persecution. Having a white person attend church attracts the attention of the government, so typically westerners do not visit house churches.

This does not mean fear of persecution is not still present. It is. My church hosts asked that I wear a hat as I walked into church because there was a government building with cameras that I would walk by as I entered the church. (I was not confident that a hat alone would disguise this 6’1”, thick-bearded white man from attention, but I went with it.)  And when I entered that church and spoke with my Chinese brothers and sisters in Christ, one thing became clear.

They knew the price they may have to pay to follow Jesus.

What they were doing, worshiping in an unregistered church, is still illegal in China. Yet, they opened the windows to this church and sang loud enough for anyone to hear on the street. They are committed to multiplying and planting more churches. Watching these Christians follow Jesus made me want to follow Jesus. This is interesting because, in 1949, many people in the West thought the future of the Church in China was over.

In 1949, the Communist party expelled all Western missionaries and cracked down on Christianity, which made many lament the future of the Church in China. Instead, what happened is that Chinese leaders were now able to lead the church in China, and despite persecution and intense opposition from the Chinese government, the Church has exploded in growth.

What God has done is amazing. In May I attended a conference with 3,500 Chinese Christians, listened to Chinese pastors preach the gospel, and found my faith strengthened. After two trips to China, and working with the China Partnership and its leaders, I believe more than ever in our mission as a church, and our call as individual Christians to obey the command of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

I had always thought Jesus commanded us to take the gospel into all the world because the world needs the gospel. This is certainly true, but something else is true here. Jesus commands us to take the gospel into all the world also because we need the world.

When the Scriptures talk about heaven, it always speaks of heaven as a place of all tribes, all tongues, all nations. Because God created those cultures, those people, they are made in His image and are good. And if we are going to be the Church Jesus wants us to be, we need those cultures. If you do not believe that with all your heart, you have clearly never eaten rice noodles in Yunnan.

Learning from Chinese Christians has produced at least one change in me. A change I hope these words produce in you.

Because of my time in China, I pray with more confidence in what God can do.  

Government power and cultural rejection cannot snuff out the Spirit of God at work in His world.  Chinese Christians are proof of this. God does not need earthly power to further His mission, which is why the Chinese Church prays with such faith. And, if you ask the Chinese Church what we in the West can do to partner with them, the first answer they give is pray for us.  

That feels like the best place to end. Stop reading right now, and go pray. Pray with China in mind, with the story of what God has done there, what He has accomplished in growing His Church despite persecution, threats, and cultural pressure. Pray with confidence like our brothers and sisters in China.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vcex_image_galleryslider post_gallery=”true” img_size=”gallery” image_ids=”15750,15749,15748,15747,15746,15745,15744,15743,15742″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Made To Flourish — Our National Mission

Since the inception of Christ Community, we have had a mission statement that has guided us. Our mission is to be a caring family of multiplying disciples influencing our community and world for Jesus Christ. At the heart of our local church mission is the catalytic multiplication of disciples, leaders, and churches. The advancement of this mission has been incredible to see as our multisite congregation continues to have a growing influence in our city and around the globe. While we have long desired to play a catalytic role around our nation, we have not had the strategic opportunity until Made to Flourish was birthed two years ago.

Even though Made to Flourish is still very much in its entrepreneurial stage, I am delighted how God is already blessing our new national mission in amazing ways. As I have the joy of interacting with members of our Christ Community church family, many share both their excitement about Made to Flourish as well as their desire to learn more about our new national mission.

Let me address five of the most common questions I am asked about Made to Flourish.

What Is the Mission of Made to Flourish?

The mission of Made to Flourish is to train and equip pastors in both spiritual wholeness and  pastoral effectiveness with a focus on whole-life discipleship that connects Sunday faith with Monday work. The heart of our mission is geared toward clergy renewal leading to congregational flourishing and broad cultural impact. Our mission is animated by a deep and unwavering conviction that the local church, as Christ designed it, is truly the hope of the world.

How Did Made to Flourish Begin?  

Made to Flourish was birthed as an institutional partnership between Christ Community and The Kern Family Foundation in Waukesha, Wisconsin. The Kern Family Foundation believed that Christ Community was uniquely positioned to give leadership to a national initiative geared to clergy and local church renewal. An extensive period of exploration by the leadership of both institutions occurred over a one-year period. A strong sense of God’s direction led to formalizing this partnership and launching a national pastors network in May 2015.

How Is Made to Flourish Organized and Funded?

Made to Flourish was created as a separate non-profit organization, with our national office being established in Kansas City. The board of directors includes both members of The Kern Family Foundation and Christ Community. I serve in a dual role both as the President of Made to Flourish and Senior Pastor of Christ Community. This means that 60% of my time is invested in my leadership role at Christ Community and 40% of my time is invested in my leadership role at Made to Flourish. Our Made to Flourish executive leadership team is comprised of Matt Rusten as the executive director, Kevin Harlan as the vice president of philanthropy, and myself as the president. Our initial funding has come from The Kern Family Foundation, but we are actively pursuing other funding sources that will expand our national reach and move us toward being self-sustaining in the long-term.

What Progress Has Been Made in Our First Two Years?

We presently have eight full-time staff members. Our national network is made up of 1,679 pastors, representing 1,403 different churches and organizations. We have city directors located in 19 cities and look to increase this number by five cities in 2018. Another major initiative will be pastoral residencies. Just as we have modeled at Christ Community, we hope to see a “teaching hospital” approach replicated in other venues. This takes a good deal of time to do well, but enthusiasm is building. In fact, we have just made out first grant to a church in Florida.

We are developing resources for both pastoral and congregational leadership by sponsoring webinars, seminars, virtual workshops, and more. We have written and posted an ebook, Discipleship with Monday in Mind. My latest book, The Economics of Neighborly Love, will be released in September 2017.

How Can I Help Advance Our Made to Flourish Mission?

As a member of the Christ Community family, you have already played a vital role in Made to Flourish as we have worked together to launch this new endeavor. Let me suggest a few ways you can continue to be involved.

First, be informed about what is happening with Made to Flourish.

Second, pray regularly for God’s protection and favor on our staff and the pastors in our network.

Third, be an ambassador of Made to Flourish. Tell others in your sphere of influence about Made to Flourish. Let other pastors and churches know about what God is doing through this movement.

Fourth, attend our national conference, Common Good 2017, which will be held in Kansas City on October 13. CG2017 will be simulcast in 18 cities (Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati/Dayton, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Los Angeles, Madison, Miami, New York City, Orlando, Pittsburgh, Research Triangle, Richmond, Seattle, Twin Cities, Washington, D.C.). We will also host an additional Spanish speaking venue in Los Angeles.

I am grateful for you and for the good work we have been called to embrace with prayerful expectancy and wholehearted obedience. It is a joy serving with you.