Recently, I was reading Isaiah 54. What a great passage to consider for springtime! That chapter is about the old being washed away, shame and guilt being done away with, and the new life that is coming. The prophet tells Israel to enlarge their place, to throw open the doors and lengthen the cords and strengthen the stakes because they are gonna grow—exponentially. I love passages about growth.
God’s grace is amazing and powerful that way. It not only changes our hope for the future, it changes our hearts for today. With new hearts—filled with Holy-Spirit power and new life—we are able to do whatever he asks us to do. We can grow deep in discipleship, with a heart of love for God and our neighbors. We can discern our spiritual gifts and develop them in useful ways. We can equip and encourage each other to engage the kingdom, joining God where he is at work in our hearts, our homes, and in our circles of influence. Wherever God has placed you and whatever God has called you to, He has already equipped you to be able to be, become, and accomplish. You are able to do ALL the things because Christ is your strength and lives in you. You are ALIVE!
Things that are alive and healthy grow. They do! By the nature of a biotic principle—the truth that living things grow naturally—we are able to grow. We are actually better together. When we are serving, working, growing, and learning together, it turns ministry into mission; it makes our efforts more successful and transforms everything about us into everything about God.
I am glad that you are Alive! I have a vision for you to be a passionate, inspired, empowering disciple of Jesus Christ whose mission is to know Him and make him known in all your relationships. The journey we call Alive Ministries is all about that: helping you grow into mature, effective, powerful and successful disciples.
If that’s what you want, you are on the right journey. Check out the rest of this newsletter to learn about missions, opportunities, and stories of God’s amazing work right here in our congregation and community. You’ll be glad you did. Promise.
See you in worship, see you in community.
FIFTY6 RETREAT: GOD'S WARRIORS
Our March Fifty6 Retreat at Cran-Hill was loads of "Warrior Fun" as we learned what it meant to be "God's Warriors" (above left). We focused on women in the Bible who decided to be a warrior for God in their own way. It was beautiful to see the girls talking about how to apply these warrior traits to their real life. When we talked about a woman who had the courage to show hospitality, the girls talked about what that could look like in their own homes and lives. When we talked about loyalty, taking risks, or having the courage to do what God calls you to do, even when you are afraid, they talked about the connections to their own lives and how they can be a light wherever they are (above middle). Their hunger and thirst for the Bible stories and perspectives were transparent every time we had a Warrior Briefing, or devotional time (above right).
You can imagine my delight, then, when we shared the same Bible story Sunday in Big Group, and a few girls spoke up about how they were connecting the story to their lives. Spending time with these young ladies, affirming the gifts they have, and helping them see how God can grow in them was a huge delight for all the leaders involved. Even the funny moments, like when we got lost, turned into a connection to a woman in the Bible who was determined to keep God as her "true north". Since the girls all received a broken compass, the point was hammered home with laughter and sincerity of what happens when you don't have God as your "true north". I love how God gives us those "unplanned, accidentally on purpose" teachable moments and opportunities to grow in Him together!
KNOWING MY MISSION
Over the past year, many of our small groups became "Formation Groups", with a focus on these three aspects of spiritual formation: learning to hear God through Scripture, practicing spiritual disciplines together, and discovering how God has designed us each for a unique mission. For most of us, the mission part was the hardest! The word "mission" makes us think of scary situations and awkward conversations, so when we first started having "mission possible conversations" in our formation groups, they were a little intimidating. But the more we realized that God's mission is to love the world, and that He has already designed and equipped us each to do it in our own unique way, the more easily the conversations rolled.
Here is a report from one of our formation groups about their last missional discussion:
"I (the leader) asked the question, 'What have you been discerning from God about your personal mission'. I was not expecting the flood of amazing responses that came out of the group! One person said they felt called to write a book about Christian business and they had already begun laying out the chapters; another said they had been discerning a call to start a chapter of Young Lives at a school that didn't have a program, and had already started making those plans. Another group member said she had started a painting that God had showed her in a vision, and another had attended a Moms and Mentors program in Holland that she wanted to bring to our area. I was blown away and truly humbled by the beautiful work that God is doing among us as we seek to engage His mission! We aren't going to sit around feeling guilty or fearful of mission anymore. Instead, God is stirring up a passion to engage in his kingdom work!"
Praise the Lord! Step one has been accomplished: we have found property in Hudsonville, so we can begin the build. You can find the location on the map here, and even drive by and say a prayer before we begin the build.
This project is a collaborative with other CRC churches—and Habitat for Humanity, of course—in Georgetown Classis. Our next steps are to:
- Discern contractors who can provide gifts in kind. Contact Steve, and click here for more info on gifts in kind.
- Volunteer; skilled or unskilled labor have a role to play in this build. Contact Travis, and click here for more info on labor.
- Schedule an Alive Work Day: If you would like to put together a team from Alive and pick a day we can all go and help, please contact Terry, and we can work together.
Check out the Go Wall in the worship center, or the above links, for how to engage, and don’t forget to pray with joy for the Swieringa family.
Multiplication is a sign of health: growing in size, and, more importantly, growing the opportunities to build relationships with those that God is bringing to Himself. Alive 2.0 is the temporary name for our developing church plant. The primary mission is to discover the best ways to build relationships with those in our community that are or feel disconnected from Jesus and his church.
The new church we lovingly call Alive 2.0 is off to a great start! We have three teams working in harmony to support the implementation; we have a Launch Team, a Prayer Team, and a Partners Team. The Partners Team is made up of representatives from Alive, Alive 2.0, the denomination, the Classis, and the community. The teams have developed a vision for the new plant, an initial budget, an implementation timeline, and a church planter profile.
We are trying to balance leading and following as we bring leadership to something new, while also listening close so that we can follow where God is leading. The team is super excited about the work we are doing, and about the conversations we have been able to have relative to planters and locations as we follow God's lead.
The Alive 2.0 Launch Team meets with the Partners Team on Tuesday, April 17. Please be in prayer today already for this presentation, which is about vision, budget, strategies, and finding a church planter. Pray that the denomination brings good clarity, leadership, and approval for this new church.
Check out the webpage about Alive 2.0 for more info.
Alive has missional partners, both in community and outside of the states. Most of the partnerships are with ministry organizations, and there is new potential to support missionaries. Some of the partnerships are situational—like hurricane relief with World Renew Disaster Relief, the Habitat for Humanity build, or the food and clothing drives we help with right here in our community. Other partnerships deal with community development and aligning ourselves with ministries that are already enduring there. One of these partnerships is with the Spark program, and there is new potential for partnering with a summer meals program, and with a ministry in Haiti.
But we need some horse power to figure this out. If you would be interested in being on this team—to help be a champion or cheerleader for a particular ministry, to help with fund raising, or even for helping members of Alive get the word out about what they do outside of 263—contact Terry ASAP.
There are tons of things to do, so this will not be a committee that sits and talks about missions! This will be a work boots, dirty hands kind of group — going places and working alongside others who need encouragement, resources, or help. If you are administrative, finance-gifted, passionate about mission and multiplication, and want to bring life and help, then you should contact Terry soon so we can get going!
On April 25, members of the board, council, and staff will gather for their annual leadership retreat. After sharing a meal and fellowship, there will testimonies of God’s transforming love, both from members of ministries and from the leaders themselves. Prayer will be the capstone for celebrating healthy ministries and changed lives. Then all three leadership groups will gather around our ministry goals to see how we are doing, and to develop strategies to go deeper in some areas or to change, if needed.
Please be in prayer for Alive’s leadership flight and annual meeting. Pray for their hearts, their health, their lives, and their capacity to lead. Pray that the retreat accomplishes what God wants it to.
If you want details about the people behind Alive's leadership, check out the leadership webpage.
This year, one of the council's goals was to develop a more extensive care structure so that we could meet the needs of people at Alive more effectively. One of our main strategies for doing that this year was to develop and empower a Care Team to work alongside of us, taking care of those with more long-term needs. We were so excited when Jan Palma agreed to head up this team for us, and she has done an amazing job of gathering and empowering others to do the beautiful work of showing spiritual and practical care and support for those who are going through trials. We are so thankful to God for the work He is doing through our Care Team, and we look forward to seeing it continue to grow! If you have gifts in caring for others and feel called to the Care Team, let Jan know!
Alive presents a healthy, strong financial position. Your giving—through tithes and offerings—has exceeded both our budget and the contributions from the same five months of last year. At the same time, our expenses of October 2017 through February 2018 are lower than those of October 2016 through February 2017. The offerings come in from a great number of contributing households. Our expenses are lower than anticipated, and this creates a balance referenced as "net income". This strong position (offerings and net income) combined with a talented staff and engaged volunteers (Council, Kids Alive volunteers, Café Team, Worship Team, Welcoming Team, and many others) means we are well-balanced for a successful launch of Alive 2.0, and for continued outreach to the disconnected within this community.
If you have any questions about Alive's finances, you are invited to contact Board member and Treasurer Andy Benes.
If you are looking for ways to get connected or stay connected to Alive this summer, we are going to have some fun opportunities for you! Come May, the Grow Wall will be full of fun Summer Connections—which will include some big events like the Whitecaps Game and the Family Picnic. But there will also be exciting ways to connect with smaller groups of people through Summer Connect Groups. These groups will be meeting for bonfires, cook-outs, and other fun activities, and their focus will be to provide some fun, relaxed opportunities for you to bond with others at Alive. So watch the Grow Wall in May, and get ready to build some great friendships this summer!