Celebrate what God is doing in our region.
There is an anointing that God is releasing within the body of Christ. We are using the term “anointing” as a recognition of the action of God giving supernatural grace and abilities to certain individuals, or to the Church as a whole, to accomplish a specific mission. This anointing for unity is an answer to Jesus’ prayer in John 17, that we would be “one.” Christian unity has been under attack since the beginning of the church, but God is releasing understanding and and power that breaks the yoke of discord and division. Joy Night 2016 was a demonstration of what can happen when the people of God are moved by this anointing. God allowed me to recognize the gift God has given Dr. Corinthia Ridgley Boone, Founder of the International Christian Host Coalition (ICHC) and to see that she has been faithful to the cause of unity for many years.
God is now calling others to pick up the torch and receive such an anointing. It is the pursuit of the full meaning of the family of God - True Christian Unity. It requires the embrace of all members of God’s family; no matter how different they are. We are called together to embrace different forms of worship, different cultures, people from all age groups, and people from all socio‐economic groups. We must begin to intentionally engage with people that don’t look like us, act like us, sound like us, or move in the circles we move in. There is an equality in the body of Christ that allows for each of God’s children to worship God together in harmony. And the sound that is produced is something we have yet to hear. It is a heavenly sound. The sound of many voices joining in with the choir of heavenly angels. It is the sound of freedom.
True Christian unity can only be achieved by moving beyond acceptance into truly embracing all the different parts of body. This is what brings diversity into the body. Diversity does not naturally take place; it must be intentionally pursued. The enemy understands that kingdom diversity is the gateway to true Christian unity and he fights it more than anything else. But, there is an anointing that breaks the yoke. God has given the church the power to defeat the enemy. AMEN! We must first acknowledge that there is a problem. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that 11am on Sunday mornings was the most segregated hour of the week. This comment was made during an interview on Meet the Press in 1960. Still today nearly 86% of all churches, according to Lifeway Research, are made up of predominantly one racial group. Here is Dr. King’s full statement:
I think it is one of the tragedies of our nation, one of the shameful tragedies, that eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours, if not the most segregated hours, in Christian America. I definitely think the Christian church should be integrated, and any church that stands against integration and that has a segregated body is standing against the spirit and the teachings of Jesus Christ, and it fails to be a true witness. But this is something that the Church will have to do itself. I don’t think church integration will come through legal processes. I might say that my church is not a segregating church. It’s segregated but not segregating. It would welcome white members. (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., interview on Meet the Press, April 17, 1960)
“But this is something that the Church will have to do itself.” What a powerful statement, given over 55 years ago, but still true today. Integration is the intentional process of coming together as one body, in one accord, and as one family. Integration is God’s mandate, not man’s. The strategy of segregation is division and discord in the body of Christ. And the enemy has been successful thus far; BUT THERE IS AN ANOINTING THAT BREAKS THE YOKE! This anointing breaks down our biases towards other people groups and brings healing on the inside from the pain of racism, sexism, ageism, classism, etc. It unites us through love and allows us to walk together, speak with one voice, and worship as one church embracing each other’s differences and the uniqueness of the body of Christ. Joy Night 2016 was an expression of this type of God glorifying holy embrace and celebration of the family of God. And God is calling us to receive this anointing and walk in it as we move forward together in ministry.
Josh Robinson, Sr. Pastor, Good Hope Church, Washington, DC, http://www.goodhopedc.com/
"In the same way, let your light shine before others,
so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."
The Church and Jesus are shining brightly around the DMV! On Thanksgiving, we gave thanks for the grace of God’s provision and extended blessings to our neighbors. As Christmas approaches, we remain thankful and celebrate the richest of all blessings – our Lord and Savior Himself.
From the Church’s immeasurable thanks flowed the lavish sharing of Jesus’ love, both in word and deed. Churches across the DMV served or provided food for over 100,000 meals to neighbors most in need. As they experienced and heard the Gospel, people became more aware of the significant value of the Church and of the One we follow.
Ministry Highlight: Reston Bible Church First Fruits Ministry
Pastor Bob Shull wanted the Reston Bible Church (RBC) youth he pastored to serve and connect with real needs in the community. He envisioned a ministry experience where students could see the ‘fruits’ of their labors for the Lord. Thus the name First Fruits, an all-day immersion which Bob describes “as close as one gets to mission work overseas.”
The students serve around the community (typically raking leaves and misc. chores), receive donations for their work, buy food and distribute to families in need!
They have an opportunity to serve physical needs and share their faith, but also to see spiritual fruit when God draws people to Himself.
For many, the First Fruits experience is their first exposure to people whose lives are marked by poverty and crises. During the deliveries of food, students get to meet the families and pray with them. One student rejoiced, “The day was great, but the delivery (of the food) was awesome.”
From meager beginnings 25 years ago, First Fruits now mobilizes the entire church in service and evangelism on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. This year, over 800 volunteers gathered and organized into 35 teams who completed 150 jobs. Over $41,000 was donated!
These funds were used immediately to purchase about a month’s supply of groceries for each family in need. Remaining funds were banked for use throughout the year as follows:
- The RBC Food Pantry serves about 120 families weekly, many of whom are immigrants, unemployed and struggling to get by. The people served are introduced through RBC’s work in schools and ESL classes offered in the community. A pastor presents a message and servants pray with attendees.
- RBC partners with Guilford Elementary School, Sterling, VA and hosts a Thanksgiving dinner every year for the families of students attending the school.
Pastor Bob shared that First Fruits had to learn lessons along the way. In early years, they provided blankets or food baskets to the homeless and realized others had already filled those needs. Coordinating with shelters and police helped, but he found it most effective to have neighbors and school officials vet needs and pass these on for follow-up.
First Fruits partners with Park View High School in Sterling, VA on the outreach. RBC youth and adults work side-by-side with at least 200 of these students, many of whom are unchurched. The long day provides great opportunities for all to talk about life and faith as they work and have a little fun. Pastor Bob recalled a student who was drawn to the friendliness of RBC’s people. She asked him, “tell me about your church.” Later she said, “I used to pray, but stopped since God wasn’t answering my prayers.” This opened the door to a deep discussion about how and when God answers.
DMV Churches served creatively and collaboratively
Mobilization of God’s people is a beautiful thing, but collaboration is icing on the cake! Here are a few examples from Thanksgiving 2016:
- Vienna Presbyterian Church (VA) provided meals for victims of torture and abuse, teaming with a local nonprofit, Northern Virginia Family Services.
- Christ of Shepherd Church (DC) convened three churches to assemble and deliver baskets of food to neighbors and helped them make connections with partnering outreach ministries.
- Greater Mt. Calvary Holy Church (DC) operating through their Crowder Owens Food Bank served meals to a significant population of seniors who are struggling to thrive.
- Our Saviors Way Lutheran, St. David's Episcopal, St. James Episcopal, St. Andrew Presbyterian and Waterford Church partnered with Loudoun Hunger Relief to assemble and deliver meal bags throughout Loudoun County, VA.
- National Community Church (DC, VA) hosted a formal sit-down dinner for members of the homeless community.
- McLean Bible Church (VA, MD) continued a twenty year tradition of packing boxes of food with the makings of a complete meal for a family of 8-10 and then distributing these to partnering churches, ministries and schools on the frontlines of need throughout the DMV.
- Christian Fellowship Church (VA) collected over a ton of food and distributed it to 8 public schools, partnered with a synagogue and mosque to feed families in need and partnered with the boy scouts to process another couple of tons of food..
- National Presbyterian Church (DC) during their Thanksgiving services collected and delivered food donations for use at Martha's Table, a local nonprofit providing emergency food and building futures for children and families through education.
These churches and many others served and loved their neighbors well in the name of Jesus!
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.
This past Christmas, churches in Metro Washington multiplied their impact by combining resources to use print and social media to send the message of the gospel to over 2 million people. McLean Bible Church coordinated the production of full page ads in newspapers like the Washington Post, USA Today and publications in Korean, Spanish and Amharic. These ads were also uploaded onto Facebook.
Christmas and the story of Jesus’s birth presents a unique opportunity where people are interested and more open. The ads focused on God’s purpose in sending his Son and extended God’s offer of salvation to all who would place their faith in Christ alone as the sole means. A website was used to direct people to Bible believing churches. Believers were encouraged to start conversations and post on social media.
The mass media strategy was inexpensive at about 3 cents per exposure. While also inviting people to churches, the ads provided talking points for spiritual discussions between family, friends and co-workers. It is through such relationships that we multiplied evangelistic impact and follow up.
This past Thanksgiving, over two dozen churches celebrated how God used them to provide meals for over 125,000 people, equivalent to over three times the capacity of the Washington Nationals baseball park. Approximately a third of those most critically in need in Metro Washington were served. Beyond this effort, many more people fed by other churches across the region.
The meals provided physical nourishment, but even more importantly, spiritual nourishment. Jesus taught, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" (Matthew 4:4). To those suffering with food insecurity, receiving a Thanksgiving meal was surely good news, but nowhere near the magnitude of the Good News of the gospel that came with the physical food!
For the nineteenth consecutive year, McLean Bible Church organized an assembly line to box ingredients for a families of 8-10 to prepare and enjoy a Thanksgiving meal together. These boxes not only included the turkeys, but also the Book of John, CDs, and other faith building literature. Over 7,500 boxes were either hand delivered to homes or to partnering ministries on the frontlines of neighborhoods in need. In situations where families were not able to prepare the meal, massive family style dinners were held. In both cases, the food provided a catalyst for relationships and spiritual conversations.
Another example of spiritual nourishment included a Thanksgiving rally organized by the World Missions Extension Center in the heart of the inner city. Over 1,000 families gathered at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church to receive their meals and to hear the Word. As a result, many responded to the gospel. Dr. JoAnn Perkins, who founded the ministry almost 30 years ago, holds 6 similar rallies each year focused on providing tangible resources and the gospel to disadvantaged families and at-risk youth. For her work feeding and clothing the homeless and educating some of the city’s poorest children in Ward 5, she has been recognized by the Metro Police Department as Citizen of the Year. This coming Thanksgiving, plans are being formulated to more fully understand the extent of coverage by the Church and to accelerate distribution of both food and gospel to those in need.