by Craig Stephen Smith, a C&MA national evangelist and member of the C&MA Board of Directors
On one of those amazing days while Jesus was on earth, His healing power touched many who came for healing and deliverance, and none went away disappointed. It looked like a great mega church was in the making!
But in all the commotion, right around daybreak, Jesus slipped away to a quiet place, weary from the all-night flurry of activity. It didn’t take long for them to find Him, and they pleaded with Him to come back. Jesus replied, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent” (Luke 4:43). Forget the church planter’s dream scenario in the big city, there were other places His message needed to go.
When Jesus said, “the other towns,” He was talking about places nobody in their right mind would want to visit—those towns on the other side of the tracks. In the storied history of Alliance missions and church planting, its workers have been known to go to such places, including my hometown and among my Native American people. Most Native communities are those other-side-of-the-tracks places.
The Alliance began work among Native Americans in the mid-1920s when several young women attending St. Paul Bible Institute (now Crown College) prayed and were called to serve the Ojibwe people in northern Minnesota. My home church, Cass Lake Alliance, was started in 1931 and has continued to be strong to this day. Other mission sites were established in the region, including in Bena, Minnesota, a community of only 100 people with a reputation of being closed off to outsiders.
For many years, Pauline Wetzel and Jean Northcott served in Bena as Alliance missionaries, reaching out to Native and non-Native children, youth, and adults. God blessed them with fruit as several families came to Christ. Other workers served the church over the years, but ultimately, it became more and more difficult to find those willing to serve. Decades ago, the doors closed.
In 2019, Harvey Rabbitt asked Pastor Mick Marino of Cass Lake Alliance Church about the work in Bena. Harvey was an 80-year-old Ojibwe elder born and raised in the area. He left as a young man to serve in the Marine Corps, but recently, Harvey was sensing the Lord leading him back home to his own people. Driving past the closed up Bena Alliance Church property, God began to speak to him about replanting the ministry there.
With the encouragement of our North Central District leadership, and under the guidance of the Cass Lake Alliance Church, Harvey began the process of licensing as a C&MA church planter. Plans were made to reopen Bena Alliance as Bena New Life Alliance Church!
A week of revival meetings were held in the middle of one of the coldest Minnesota winters in history and Bena New Life was resurrected.
Just weeks after the revival meetings, the pandemic hit, severely impacting this new work. Soon after, Harvey discovered he was suffering from advanced stages of cancer. Uninhibited by the news, Harvey kept on going until his health finally took its toll.
One of Harvey’s urgent desires was to train a younger man to take over the work. Octavius (OT) Lopez, who is from the Tohono O’odham tribe of Arizona, was one of the young men at Cass Lake Alliance Church who recently began working with the youth after finishing courses at nearby Mokahum Ministry Center and was pursuing licensing with The C&MA. As Harvey continued to fail in health, God began moving in OT’s heart to be that young man Harvey prayed for to take over Bena New Life Alliance Church. Our elders prayed alongside Harvey and OT, and it became clear that this was God’s answer for the needs of this new ministry.
Harvey’s days before the event became more and more difficult. But on that special day, God gave Harvey enough energy to participate. Zane Williams, president of the association, honored the Rabbitts with a beautiful Pendleton blanket. A week and a half after the service, Harvey passed into the presence of his Lord, and OT began his service as lead pastor. Since then, the Lord continues to bless OT and the New Life Church.
As we moved into the summer months, Pastor Harvey continued to deteriorate. Cass Lake Alliance and the Native American Association held an honoring celebration service for Harvey and his wife, Marilyn, where they would also celebrate the transfer of leadership to OT.
Both Native and non-Native people continue to be ministered to through OT’s powerful preaching as the church has become a stable gospel influence in this needy community. One of Cass Lake’s elders, who recently attended one of Bena’s Sunday services, reported that there were more people at Bena Alliance than there were at Cass Lake Alliance!
Cass Lake Alliance leadership has been mentoring and overseeing OT’s spiritual development and ministry experiences and are thrilled at the opportunity to extend Cass Lake’s impact into this nearby and needy community. Both of these communities are the ones Jesus spoke of “other towns.”
How does Christ continue to go into other towns today? He does it through His Church, no matter large or small. You don’t have to be a mega-church to extend the gospel to the towns around you. Trust God and step out in faith to reach even more people with the gospel of Christ before He returns.
A generous Alliance donor has provided a $100,000 matching gift for all donations to The Alliance Year-End Offering—but only for gifts made on GivingTuesday (December 1)!
That means that you can DOUBLE your gospel impact by giving on GivingTuesday!
Jesus entered the world to lead humankind out of the darkness of sin and death into the light of His eternal presence. But His mission remains unfinished.
Scripture reveals when it will be completed: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
God has raised up The Alliance to be one of His end-times families to carry the light of the gospel to the remaining least-reached corners of the world—until ALL have had the opportunity to hear. And we won’t stop until the job is done.
Rima* is one of thousands of Syrian women with unfinished stories living in the dark prison of their culture where Jesus is the only key to freedom. Hear more about her story in this video.
When you participate in the Year-End Offering this Christmas, you send Alliance workers into overlooked and oppressed communities like Rima’s—redeeming thousands of unfinished stories and fulfilling our unfinished mission together.
Mark your calendar now to give and double your gospel impact on December 1!
By Lee Ann Nevius
Veterans Day, a designated federal holiday, commemorates the end of World War I. Just over a hundred years ago, in 1918—at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month—a certain amount of peace followed a grizzly conflict. Originally named Armistice Day, it is distinct from other military appreciation holidays. Memorial Day honors those who have died while in military service. Armed Forces Day honors those who currently serve, and now Women’s Veterans Day recognizes the women who have served. But Veterans Day recognizes the service of ALL military veterans. And let’s not forget to recognize and pray for the families who serve behind the scenes. Often they themselves embrace hard duty.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
The opening phrases of Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities echoes the experience of many military families. The adventure of seeing and living in new places is soon met with the realization that over the next 20 years, most of your leave will be used to visit family you wished lived a half a mile away and that Nebraska might not measure up to the dream European assignment for which you hoped. The treasure of life-long military friendships meets up with the initial loneliness and awkwardness when arriving at yet another duty station. The sense of great purpose from upholding our nation’s constitution contrasts with bureaucracy and tedious tasks and is fraught with lengthy, often dangerous assignments and ofttimes riddled with pride.
It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.
We respond with Acts 16:31, “They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.’” Pray that military families will believe and call on the name of Jesus. Pray that active duty members will not rely on ethical conduct, a moral code, or a list of core values penned by their military branch but will depend wholly on the redemption through Christ’s Resurrection.
It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness.
Military families face seasons of unique and difficult challenges. Pray that they will be led by the Light of the world. Pray that they will seek Him and trust in His sovereignty.
It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
Military homes are constantly in a state of flux. There are heavy strains on marriages. Children transition from place to place, school to school and sometimes from friends to no friends. Military members face pressures to perform, to advance in rank. Stressors can lead to emotional, mental, and physical fatigue and sometimes illness. Despair can creep in. Let’s pray Psalm 71:14 over our military families as the Psalmist declares, “As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.”
The Alliance currently has 55 federal chaplains serving as licensed, ordained spiritual leaders in the Army, Navy, Air Force, in active duty Reserves and National Guard branches, in Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals, and with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Another 25 Alliance people are currently in training for federal chaplaincy.
This Veterans Day, in addition to remembering those who have fought valiantly to defend our freedoms, please pray that our military families will anchor themselves in the goodness of God’s praise and rest securely in the shadow of His wings.
Lee Ann Nevius is married to Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Mark Nevius, stationed at Dyess Air Force Base, Abilene, Texas.
In recent weeks, new allegations regarding sexual misconduct by Ravi Zacharias have been published in various media outlets, including Christianity Today. These allegations have raised concern among some media entities and other parties over the decision of The Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) in 2018 not to discipline Mr. Zacharias. This decision was made based on evidence available at the time regarding Mr. Zacharias’s personal behavior and ministry activities, which did not provide a basis for formal discipline under the C&MA policy.
On October 2, 2020, the C&MA contracted an independent investigative firm to explore the recent allegations of Mr. Zacharias’ sexual misconduct and will determine an appropriate course of action based on the investigation’s findings.
If you have any information that you believe might be helpful to the investigation team, you may contact them here.
Read the original C&MA public statement regarding the initial allegations made against Mr. Zacharias, dated March 5, 2018.
Director for Media Relations
October 7, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Colorado Spring, Colo. — The Christian and Missionary Alliance (The Alliance) has received a grant of $1 million from Lilly Endowment, Inc., to help promote the growth of Hispanic congregations in the United States.
The program is funded through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative. The aim of the national initiative is to strengthen Christian congregations so they can help people deepen their relationships with God, build strong relationships with each other and contribute to the flourishing of local communities and the world.
Lilly Endowment is making nearly $93 million in grants through the initiative. The grants will support organizations as they work directly with congregations and help them gain clarity about their values and missions, explore and understand better the communities in which they serve, and draw upon their theological traditions as they adapt ministries to meet changing needs.
The Alliance will use this grant to better understand what helps U.S. Alliance Hispanic congregations thrive in an effort to support their ongoing growth. There has been surprisingly little research conducted in this area. The proposed program will identify factors and resources that cause Hispanic congregations to thrive and apply these principles in “congregational cohorts” and learning communities throughout the United States. The Alliance then plans to share these growth factors with Hispanic congregations in other Christian denominations.
On receiving the grant, Alliance Church Ministries Vice President Terry Smith responds, “Church Ministries is thrilled to receive this grant that gives us the open door of opportunity to increase our gospel impact on the fast-growing Hispanic population in the United States.”
The Alliance is one of 92 organizations taking part in the initiative. They represent and serve churches in a broad spectrum of Christian traditions, including Anabaptist, Baptist, Episcopal, evangelical, Lutheran, Methodist, Mennonite, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Reformed, Restoration, Roman Catholic and Orthodox, as well as congregations that describe themselves as nondenominational. Several organizations serve congregations in Black, Hispanic and Asian-American traditions.
“In the midst of a rapidly changing world, Christian congregations are grappling with how they can best carry forward their ministries,” said Christopher Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “These grants will help congregations assess their ministries and draw on practices in their theological traditions to address new challenges and better nurture the spiritual vitality of the people they serve.”
Lilly Endowment launched the Thriving Congregations Initiative in 2019 as part of its commitment to support efforts that enhance the vitality of Christian congregations.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. Although the gifts of stock remain a financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. The Endowment funds significant programs throughout the United States, especially in the field of religion. However, it maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis and home state, Indiana. The principal aim of the Endowment’s grantmaking in religion is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen their pastoral and lay leadership.
Peter Burgo, Communications
The Christian and Missionary Alliance
Phone: (719) 265-2007
By Terry Smith, vice president for U.S. Alliance Church Ministries
I’ve dubbed 2020 “The Year of the Asterisk.” It will forever be known as the year when nothing was normal and everything was out of kilter. That certainly applies to church ministry. In the midst of the abnormal and ever-changing circumstances presented to us by the Covid-19 Pandemic, our Alliance pastors have stepped up and met the challenge. When congregations couldn’t meet in person, pastors scrambled quickly in March to create or increase an online presence, preaching into a camera or computer each week. I “attended” Facebook Live worship services, Bible studies, and prayer meetings all led by Alliance pastors. I’ve heard story after story of this increased online presence drawing more people than normal onsite attendance.
Additionally, pastors found creative ways to shepherd their flocks, to keep their people engaged and connected. And they led their churches in reaching out to people in the community in a variety of ways – meals to school children, drive-through food banks for those in need, grocery shopping for elderly people, practical encouragement for medical personnel on the frontlines of treating people with the virus, and much more.
October is Pastor Appreciation Month. I was the October recipient of kind words, cards, and gifts for years as a local church pastor and was always encouraged by these demonstrations of love. It’s appropriate each year to appreciate and honor our pastors, but it is all-the-more appropriate this year. Pastors have worked harder than ever. They have been involved in making difficult decisions and, at times, have taken undue criticism for those decisions. I’m hearing stories of weary pastors who could use some words and tangible expressions of encouragement.
If you are a member of a congregation reading this, would you please carefully consider how you might be able to appreciate and encourage your pastor? If you are a pastor, please know of my deep gratitude for you and all you’ve done in keeping ministry moving forward in this crazy year. I can’t shake your hand or throw a brotherly hug around your neck. I wouldn’t be allowed to do that even if I was with you. So here’s a virtual high five and a big hug. Well done, Alliance pastors!
P.S.: If you’re looking for ways for your entire congregation to come together to honor your pastor this month, the National Association of Evangelicals has some great suggestions on its Bless Your Pastor website.
By James Rudd
In 2008 I was given stewardship of an empty church building and the legal charter of a non-existent church that I was to re-establish from scratch. On my first official day of employment I took my toolbox over to the empty building and spent the entire day removing every dedication plaque and name plate from pews, pianos, doors, etc. Even the Communion table, inscribed with the words of Jesus; ” Do This In Remembrance Of Me” had a plaque under the inscription that read “In Loving Memory of ____.” While I was able to bless and honor those whose names were memorialized, I felt that this was a necessary step toward establishing a fresh start for a new congregation.
A few weeks later I started reading old hand-written governing board minutes from as far back as 1924. Among those notes I found decisions from the 1970’s to erect a barbed wire fence to keep neighborhood kids off of the property, a decision to not support a Billy Graham crusade because it might require them to partner with “modern” churches, and a decision to forbid the pastor from performing interracial marriages. The latter decision read:
“A discussion was brought up concerning mixed and interracial marriages. The majority of those present were not in favor of these marriages and it was agreed that the pastor would counsel these couples to discourage them.” (1971)
Over 100 years after slavery was abolished, and almost a decade after the Civil Rights Act, this church in a major U.S. city was systematizing a racist policy.
Well, their decisions stuck. The church closed with no kids, no new believers, and no people of color. They got what they wanted.
When I discovered these things, I couldn’t help but repent. In fact, I asked everyone that was part of our little church plant at the time to repent with me.
Why would I repent of something that I didn’t do?
It wasn’t my fault . . .
I wasn’t even alive when it happened . . .
But it was my responsibility. I was the pastor now.
Being responsible for the problem and being responsible for the solution are not the same thing. Positional repentance is not about taking blame, it’s about taking responsibility. It’s not about admitting personal guilt, it’s about pursuing healing.
Where there is corporate sin there needs to be corporate repentance. Those in authority can and must repent for the sins of the past in order to make room for healing.
Moses did it. Josiah did it. Daniel did it. And we should do it.
When our congregation repented of corporate racism, healing began to come immediately in the very form that we had previously outlawed. Our church began a 10+ year run of having interracial marriages reflected on our staff that continues to this day. More than 50 percent of the marriages that I have performed have been interracial couples. The second largest demographic in our church is the bi-racial children of interracial marriages ( about 30 percent).
I write these things not to force an agenda of positional repentance but simply to offer testimony about the healing and reconciliation that await us when we humble ourselves, repent of our corporate sins, and receive our Redeemer’s restoration.
When the communities of Medford, Phoenix, and Talent, Oregon, suffered unimaginable destruction from the massive Alameda Drive Fire on September 8 and 9, 2020, the Medford (C&MA) Neighborhood Church, led by Pastor Lee Gregory, rallied the three communities together to launch a massive “iCare” campaign to help those most impacted by the devastation. As of September 21, the iCare campaign has given out more than $16,400 in gift cards to those who have lost their homes and possessions in the blaze.
“The iCare campaign is just starting,” says Pastor Lee,” because the needs are going to be here for a long time.”
Watch the video.
Read more about Pastor Lee’s efforts to lead through this crisis in this recent New York Times article.
It was one week ago that Hurricane Sally unleashed its fury on the western Florida panhandle and Alabama coastline!
Until last week, it had been more than a decade and a half since a hurricane hit this section of the Gulf Coast. The last hurricane to make its presence known there was Hurricane Ivan in 2004. And as if by some bizarre twist of fate, sixteen years later, Hurricane Sally made landfall at the very same place (Gulf Shores, Alabama) on the very same date (September 16). The chances of something like that occurring are mind-boggling!
We are so appreciative of those who have prayed steadfastly for our Alliance Southern District churches and the families that were impacted by Hurricane Sally. One week later, the process of “digging out” remains ongoing and likely will continue for some time to come. But progress is being made toward a return to a sense of “normalcy.”
Power has been restored in the major population areas, but many in the outlying areas remain without. Likewise, cell phone service and the internet are gradually coming back online.
With restored communication, we are finally able to give a more definitive update of the situation on the ground as it relates to our Southern District churches.
Eternal Life Church in Lillian, Alabama, (Pastor Calvin and Sharon Bartl) was spared, suffering the least amount of damage. As previously reported, a HUGE tree fell landing squarely between the church building and the house that used to be the church’s parsonage. There are only feet between the two buildings, but almost miraculously neither building was severely damaged. It did tear the meter box off the side of the house, causing some electrical issues. But other than a LOT of debris cleanup and tree removal, this church was fortunate.
Pastor Calvin and Sharon Bartl, unfortunately, did experience some damage to their home and property. Most of the shingles were blown off from one side of their house, and their outlying farm buildings and property sustained damages as well. But the insurance adjuster has already made a settlement and they have begun the work toward repair and restoration.
Ensley Alliance Church in Pensacola, Florida, (Pastor Fred and Carol King) sustained some wind and water damage to their church building. The pastor’s study, foyer, and sanctuary were all flooded. Additionally, there was exterior roof damage and some ceiling damage to the inside of the sanctuary and offices. The water has now been suctioned up and they are running the AC and fans to dry everything out. An insurance adjuster has not yet been on site to estimate the total cost of damages.
Genesis Church in Gulf Shores, Alabama, (Pastor Shawn and Rebekah Kennedy) was hit the hardest. Due to the size of their structure and its proximity to the shoreline, it appears that the structural integrity of the Genesis Church building may have been compromised. The direct blunt force of the hurricane’s wind made the building move and expand from within, causing the seals on the plate glass windows which cover much of the front of the building to rupture. More than 100 gallons of water were removed from inside the church building. Additionally, stress cracks have been discovered in the cement walls, and damages were sustained on the backside of the church building. It appears, also, that the roof suffered a fair amount of damage.
The good news is that Genesis Church DID carry hurricane insurance. The bad news is that their deductible is $80,000. A structural engineer has already examined the building, but the insurance adjuster(s) have yet to survey the building’s damages. Pray that they will be fair and generous.
Despite the behemoth task of their own property cleanup, Genesis Church immediately sprung into action to be the hands and feet of Jesus in meeting the needs of their community! Within the past week, Genesis Church has:
. . . only to name a few of the relief effort initiatives that have been undertaken.
We are grateful to CAMA Services, the relief arm of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, for providing $5,000 of immediate financial assistance to aid Genesis Church and the Southern District in its disaster relief efforts.
Grace and Peace,
Many are concerned and inquiring about the welfare of our churches and people in the region. So as we head into the week, let me provide a brief update of what we have learned and been able to confirm thus far.
Communication with/from Gulf Shores, Alabama, and Pensacola, Florida, continues to remain a challenge since Hurricane Sally hit the Western Florida panhandle and Alabama Gulf Coast on Wednesday night. Pastor Shawn Kennedy was able to successfully call out and connect with me yesterday afternoon, but the duration of the connection was short-lived.
All three Alliance churches in the area sustained some wind and water damage to varying degrees. It appears that Genesis Church in Gulf Shores, Alabama sustained the most damage, but Eternal Life Church in Lillian, Alabama, and Ensley Alliance Church in Pensacola, Florida, were not exempt. Hurricane insurance in this area is for the most part cost-prohibitive, making it out of reach for many churches. Genesis Church did have hurricane insurance, but their deductible is $80,000. An insurance adjuster is scheduled to assess the damage at Genesis Church early next week, but pastor Shawn estimates that the damage will likely not exceed the deductible amount, but $50,000 – $60,000 in repairs will likely need to be made. These repairs, along with those at Eternal Life Church and Ensley Alliance Church will have to be financed from these churches’ budgets, which is already stretched as a result of COVID-19. So please pray for God’s provision and enabling.
Almost miraculously, Eternal Life Church (Lillian, Alabama) escaped what could have been catastrophic damage. There are only a few feet between the church building and a house that used to serve as the church’s parsonage. A HUGE tree fell during the storm and landed exactly between the two buildings! It hit the electric wire and pulled the meter box off of the house, but did not hit either building. As mentioned in an earlier communication, however, significant wind and water damage were inflicted upon Pastor Calvin & Sharon Bartl’s home.
Genesis Church has sprung into action to minister to the needs of the Gulf Shores community. Out of a desire to be the hands and feet of Jesus during this time of need, they have opened up their church parking lot and church building to be a staging area for the distribution of essential items that are needed, but inaccessible due to the disaster. They are distributing water, ice, diapers, personal care items, supplies for clean-up, etc., to those in need. Additionally, they have opened up their gymnasium for those requiring shelter and are using the church’s commercial kitchen to feed workers. The church has gone out into the community with chain saws and to assist with clean-up, as well. Pastor Shawn Kennedy sent a text message last evening which read: “I lined up almost 10 yards to clean up today. People were crying … it was a good day!”
We have learned that one family from Genesis Church lost their home completely as a result of storm damage, but countless families have experienced damages to their homes – some significant.
CAMA Services, the relief arm of The Alliance, has stepped in to donate $5,000 to the Southern District to assist Genesis Church with its disaster relief efforts for which we are tremendously grateful and appreciative.
There is still no power or internet and cell phone service is ‘sketchy’ at best. The area looks like a war zone with devastation everywhere.
The national news cycle has already moved on to other things in less than 48 hours after Hurricane Sally made landfall. But for the people who live along this section of the Gulf Coast, it remains an ever-present reality and will remain for some time to come. It will likely be weeks before power is restored and/or life even begins to return to normal. And with the scars left behind upon this beautiful area, it will take years to be restored to its former beauty.