This January, Keri and I are moving to Seattle to help plant a church. This is going to be a big year for us because we are also expecting our first child this October, Jack Tyler Higgins. One might think that this is an inconvenient time for us to move, especially so far from all the familiarities we have in the Midwest like family, jobs and a church family we love. So why move across the country and forsake all of this?
Because the glory of God and the souls of the lost compel us.
As we look at what really matters in this life it is easy to boil it down to these two things: the glory of God and the mission of God. So then how do these two great truths run together compelling Christ followers to forsake ease and comfort to launch into unfamiliar places?
The answer is the Gospel.
Let me take a moment to explain what I mean. We believe we can forsake comfort and join into the mission of God because God has made his story our story. In the history of redemption, despite man’s sinfulness, God sent Jesus the Christ to save sinners through his life, death and resurrection. After this, God sent the Spirit as a unique gift to believers to guide them in carrying the gospel into the whole world. When God reached us with the Gospel, he performed a Copernican Revolution. In our sin, we wrongly assumed ourselves the center of the universe. When Christ broke in and opened our eyes to behold his goodness, there was a glorious flip that occurred. Suddenly, we saw that God was at the center and we were free to live as servants of the King. Even more than that, we were made sons and heirs of the Kingdom. As sons, Christ has given us the mission to proclaim his goodness near and far.
Thus, long before church planting became our mission or Emmaus’ mission, it was the mission of God — the salvation of sinners to demonstrate his glory. In the gospel, God joined us to his story of redemption and uses us to magnify his name. By church planting, we are convinced that we are not actually doing something new or hip, but instead we are doing something old. We will obey Jesus’ words to “go 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” with the sweet affirmation that Jesus is really with us, even to the end (Matt 28). Utilizing the means God has given us, we understand that one of the ways to do this is through church planting—that is, to start a church where there is no church & to live out the biblical vision of a church.
Ultimately, our vision is to see a New Testament church rooted in downtown Seattle filled with lives transformed by the power of the Gospel. In following the redemptive narrative as laid out in scripture, one can see the New Covenant church grow from the fertile soil of God’s work in the Gospel. So it is that the Gospel is what ultimately drives the mission of God which leads to the glory of God.
God has not called all of his children to church planting, but he has called them all to his mission. As Keri and I consider our own callings and distinctive equipping, we feel we can best steward these gifts through the avenue of church planting. Through much prayer and conversations with fellow saints, it has been confirmed that God has called us to steward these gifts in Seattle. Seattle is a city in great need of the gospel! With a downtown population of 700,000 (4.5 million metro area population), it is imperative that the first Southern Baptist church is planted in the core of the city.
How Can You Get Involved?
Partner Through Prayer
We have a deep held conviction that God uses the prayers of his people to advance his kingdom. Prayer by its very nature postures our dependence on God and acknowledges that without his help we will fail miserably at any attempt to faithfully carry out his mission. Thus, we ask that you pray for us as we look to pick up the lives we have established here in Kansas City to move away from friends and family into an unknown city. Especially in light of the fact that we are expecting our first child this October, pray that God would help us to love him more than our own comforts, and that he would provide a family and community through the church. Next, pray that God would continue to enflame our affections towards the people of Seattle. God is at work in Seattle, and the harvest is plentiful. Pray that God would give us opportunity to share the gospel with those who have never heard it. Next, pray that God would actually save sinners through our ministry. The gospels are full of imagery related to salvation: the blind see, the deaf hear, and the dead rise. Pray that God would work his unique miracle of giving a heart of flesh to those who have a heart of stone. Lastly, pray that Keri and I receive provision. We already have and will continue to seek out partners to join us in prayer and in financial support, and in light of this we ask you pray that God would generously bring people to us who want to help.
We have come to understand that God works through the normal means of relationships to help his people. We only have a few contacts in Seattle at this point, but if you know of anyone or even any ministry that could benefit us as we look to plant a church in downtown Seattle, we would love to meet them. Maybe you know people in other churches who would be interested in joining us in this endeavor—please find a way to get us in touch with them, as we would love to meet them.
Finally, we have great hope that you would support us financially. God has called us, but accompanying this calling is a need to be sent. God calls all people to his mission of advancing the Gospel and some, by virtue of their training and calling, move to those in need and others, by virtue of their circumstances and gifts, send them. This idea of financially supporting others to advance the gospel is deeply biblical. This is highlighted in the book of Philippians when Paul speaks about his partnership in the Gospel with the Philippian church. William Carey, the father of modern missions, famously said to a missions board: “I will go down, if you will hold the rope.” Thus, we are seeking you out to ask if you are willing to help support us financially through monthly giving for at least three years. If you would like to support us financially Please visit the link below.
If you have any further questions related to the church plant or our plans, please reach out to me via email at: email@example.com or by phone at (816) 260-9104.
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Glen Higgins is a graduate of Midwestern Seminary with his Masters of Divinity. He has served for the last three years as a pastoral resident at Emmaus Church. Glen and his wife Keri have been married for four years and are expecting their first child this October. Follow him on Twitter at @HigginsGlen.
I was recently told by a visitor to church that our congregation was friendly. While I told the guest that I was glad they thought so, I couldn’t help but feel a little defeated. Now, in all fairness, I am a cynic by nature (pray for me) and it seems like the visitor enjoyed their visit…right?? Not to be groundbreaking, but I couldn’t help but think to myself that being friendly and nice, as a Christian, should not be celebrated as something above and beyond the call of duty. It should be an expectation, a standard. Of course we are friendly. If you claim to follow Christ and you are not greeting others with a natural kindness, I would challenge you to look to Him and “check yourself.” A Christian who is seeking to follow Jesus will find joy in Him and organically be friendly and open to all. That should not be a surprise.
Friendliness vs Hospitality
There is a major difference between being friendly and being hospitable. Friendliness is quite passive. It is surface level interactions. Hospitality is founded on being proactive, going out of your way to serve others and to have intentional, meaningful conversations. Paul says in Romans 12:13 to “contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Don’t wait for your neighbor to reach out and you. Jesus says in Mark to “…love your neighbor as yourself,” saying it’s the second greatest commandment of all.
Look to the Ultimate Host
It’s easy to use seasons of life as excuses to put off being hospitable. You want to reach out to others, but careers, family, sleep, or yard work (the worst) take precedent. Take a lesson from the ultimate Host. Christ made an intentional effort to break bread with His disciples knowing that He would die on a cross the very next day. Let that soak in — He hosted His last meal on this earth and gave some pretty intentional heart-to-hearts. We make the excuse that we have “too much going on” when in reality we are simply exhausted from staying up too late the weekend before, and want one night to catch up on all things Hulu. As Christians, we are called to parallel the love and generosity of Christ. We serve well because Christ has served us well. We love well because Christ loves us well (1 John 4:9-12). This is the cornerstone of hospitality.
While you may not serve on the church’s hospitality team, or you may not think you are gifted with hospitality, or you are the newest hipster trend of being the most introverted extrovert, we are still all called to be gracious, courteous and seeking hosts. You may not be the most outgoing person in the church, but you are at the table. We all are. Christ, the ever seeking and inviting King, has invited us, ALL of us, to sit at His table. Bring your friends. Bring your neighbors. Let the Father use you to serve others well. Show and share the grace of our Lord as He has shown you.
Be intentional. Ask questions. REAL questions. Get their phone number. Use it. Think of day that week you are free and ask them to come over. Go get coffee with them, go get some shaved ice (#summertrend2017), or break bread in your home. Find someone else in the church body you think will have similar interests and connect with them. Make a habit to pray for those you meet that week.
Be sacrificial. How do you serve others on Sunday mornings? Throughout the week? Seeking to serve sacrificially can be many things. It’s sacrificing conversing with your community group right when you see them to make sure the guest you just walked by finds the coffee bar (I know you are headed there too), it’s sacrificing sitting with your neighbor or classmate and instead sitting with someone you don’t know and worshipping together. It’s sacrificing meeting your co-worker or family for lunch right after the service, and inviting a visitor to lunch instead, or inviting them along. Jesus served in some of the lowest ways, even stooping to wash His disciples’ feet. Are you willing to sacrifice and make yourself low for the sake of the gospel?
Be mission minded. The church is part of our mission field. Whatever role you are serving in on a Sunday morning should be a reflection of Christ. Whether that job is greeting at the door, cleaning bathrooms, bass playin’, or checking toddlers into the Kids Ministry, you should put your all into serving. Have good attitudes, anticipate needs, walk guests down the hallway to insure they know the way, and be on time. Volunteer for areas of need versus areas of interest without the expectation of recognition. Every way we serve should be intentional, sacrificial, and to the glory of God.
And yes, be friendly.
Try to be more aware of how you utilize your time on Sunday mornings with newcomers. Perhaps you begin by seeking out visitors, having conversations with them and helping them make meaningful connections before you chase down the friend you have been wanting to see all week. Maybe it’s rearranging YOUR schedule to make a visitor feel welcome. By the way, hospitality doesn’t just stop with guests. When is the last time you have had a fellow member in your home that is outside of your small group or neighborhood?
We are called to declare and display the gospel. That includes displaying the gospel in greeting, welcoming and serving guests at church and in our daily lives. We are called to be intentional and hospitable servants that build up the body of Christ. Peter says in 1 Peter 4:9 to “offer hospitality to one another without complaint.” Pray that the Lord will open your heart and eyes for more intentional, sacrificial and missional opportunities with visitors in order to show the love and hospitable heart of Jesus Christ. For this is true hospitality.
Kyler Keith is the Director of Hospitality at Emmaus Church. He and his wife, Mindy, have two children (Eva & Rhett), and one on the way. He has not written a paper since college, circa 2007. Rock Chalk!!
The first day I arrived in the Middle East in 2014, I exited the plane and stepped onto the open-air run way and the heat swept over me like a blanket. As we entered the airport, my eyes were taken aback by throngs of men, wearing white robes, and women, wearing only layers of black. As we sat in the airport for hours, we heard the Muslim call to prayer resound through the airports walls as people filed through the visa line. As we left, my glazed over, jet-lagged eyes could hardly take in every road sign that was in Arabic script. My mind could hardly compute that I was actually in the Middle East after months of preparing and praying for this time. It was exhilarating, yet terrifying. I felt severely inadequate and realized how much I needed the Holy Spirit to enable me to work in the harvest. I had become a Christian only a year before – yet I had immediately known that I must tell others about this Good News in unreached places. I knew that the Gospel needed to be heard by people who clung so tightly to Islam, the deadly religion of works. I desperately desired to verbally proclaim the message of Good News to those broken people.
Little did I know, those four months would entail hours of long conversations simply trying to clear up one misconception. It entailed spending hours with women in their homes telling them stories from the Bible over deliciously spiced meals of rice and chicken. It felt as though we were tending to a terribly neglected garden, one filled with weeds and stones. We sought to carefully sow the life-giving message of Jesus’ death and resurrection, taking care to sow truth in place of the lies. We sought to be humble yet bold lights in a land of darkness and formed many deep, gospel-saturated friendships along the way.
Little did I know, I would return only two years later in the spring of 2016 to formally study Arabic with a team and to once again persevere in sharing the Gospel. God used my initial time in the Middle East to develop in me a passion for the people – and He is still. Only Jesus can bind up the deep wounds and lies of works based religion. Only Jesus can rescue wounded people – yet they are largely without access to hear. I long for the day that I will return to them. But for now, a new opportunity has come.
The New Opportunity
In January of this year, Avant Ministries launched an internship called the Avant Missionary Institute. I rejoice that I have been given the opportunity to join this endeavor. The first 5 months are spent in Kansas City and the last 2 months are spent in Jordan. The focus during our time in Kansas City is to urgently reach out to Arab Muslims and to grow as a team. The last two months of the internship, during June and July, we will go to Jordan in the Middle East. There, we will establish relationships with the people and seek to partner fruitfully with a local church as well. Jordan is a small country, yet has a staggering 9.5 million people within its borders, and only one-third of the population is actually Jordanian, meaning many are refugees.*
*Sources: https://joshuaproject.net/countries_photos/JO, http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/population-stands-around-95-million-including-29-million-guests
Since January, our team has been meeting three times a week for prayer, twice a week to evangelize, and once a week for an Islamic Studies course and to study Arabic. These times are especially important for us as we prepare for what could be a lifetime of ministry among Arab Muslims. I hope that you will consider joining with me in the work in the Middle East by partnering both prayerfully and financially. At this stage, I am asking you to prayerfully consider partnering with me specifically in the giving of finances. Through prayer and financial giving, you are partnering with me in this work of advancing the Gospel.
This price includes flights, food, in country travel, ministry opportunities, rent, and all other expenses:
- Half of this amount – $2,000 is due immediately in order to buy plane tickets at the end of this month, by March 31, 2017.
- Full amount deadline – May 1st, 2017.
- Giving by Check – Make checks out to Avant Ministries. Make sure to include my name (Courtney Allen) on a sticky note with the check.
- Feel free to find me at church any given Sunday if giving in person.
- If sent via mail, send to: 10000 N Oak Trafficway, Kansas City, MO 64155
- Online Giving – If you choose to give online, please do so through directly linking your bank account:
Pray that Arab Muslims in this city would realize their need for Jesus. Pray that I would be faithful to the Lord, zealous for His glory, and boldly share the Good News. I would love to talk with any of you who have further questions about this opportunity.
Behold, our King Jesus is coming soon. Let us fight the good fight as we rejoice that we have been redeemed and offer this Good News to others.
Courtney Allen is a senior at Midwestern College studying Intercultural Studies and Humanities. She previously lived in the Middle East for eight months, and hopes to continue to be a part of advancing God’s kingdom in unreached places in whichever way the Lord sees fit. If you’d like to contact Courtney directly, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It was my sophomore year of college, and I found myself stuck to the chair in a dark room while passionate worship music pumped through the speakers. My world had just been rocked and — unbeknownst to me radically altered.
“God does not bless you just to bless you,” the speaker said. “He blesses you to be a blessing to others. All throughout Scripture we see how God blesses people for the purpose of making HIS name great among the nations.”
As I left the conference and drove home through a snowstorm, I knew God was calling me to abandon my summer plans. Over the next few weeks I began the process of preparing for my very first short-term mission trip to Turkey. Of course, like any normal 20-year-old evangelical female, my heart was driving the entire application process. Passionate late night discussions with friends about “the lost” around the world were common. I cried when I watched missions videos. I just knew, I knew, I could make an impact. After all, God had called me to do this thing! He had shaken my world and my heart was being remolded for His purposes. As the time drew nearer for our five-week trip, I felt ready and prepared. Our church trained us well and our team even met weekly to pray and plan. It was time to go to Turkey to make a big difference for the kingdom.
As it turned out, I was actually a really terrible missionary. From the moment I landed in Turkey, I felt fairly comfortable and in awe of all the strange new sights and sounds. But I quickly learned that my heart could only take me so far. Of all the girls on the team, I was the only one who walked away from our five-week trip without a good, solid friendship with a Muslim girl. We spent most of our time at a university, helping English classes and building relationships outside of class. I truly loved the time connecting with the Muslim students at the university but found myself feeling drained from long conversations in broken English about everything from American culture to the Bible. “What is wrong with me?” I wondered. “Why are the other girls building these great relationships with the Turkish students, and I simply tag along?” “If my heart is so moved by the lost in Turkey, why doesn’t that translate into good missionary skills?”
So many of us wear our hearts on our sleeves. We make decisions and take action based on deep feelings that propel us. This is not bad! Rejoice in how God has made you! But I am here to offer both a warning and an encouragement for those of you who are like me and have paved your life’s course based on what your heart has told you to do.
You can have a deep love for the nations. You can desperately desire to see them saved. But that doesn’t mean you should be the person sent to the front line of church planting and evangelism. Maybe it does mean that, for some. I can’t help but wonder what God could do through us, though, if we realized what role God would have us play in reaching the lost we are so burdened for.
Since my “failed” missions trip to Turkey 13 years ago, I have learned that I am not truly a failure. If anything, my desire to see the nations saved has grown by leaps and bounds. However, I’ve learned that I am far more effective as a communicator and administrator. I’m deeply passionate about helping others catch God’s vision for what He is doing on a global scale. Talking with young people about their gifts and talents and how they can use those gifts and talents in another country energizes me. This is how I play a role in God’s mission to save the nations. It is important and it is valuable. It is not sexy — and you won’t read any autobiographies written about me — but I don’t care!
You have a role to play! Never in the history of mankind has God called someone to follow Him and then allowed him or her to sit on the sidelines of His mission. There is a reason God made you the way He did.
Are you good at explaining the Gospel in simple terms? Girl, get yourself into your community and start those spiritual conversations.
Are you gifted at hospitality? Invite international students into your home for an American meal. If you struggle with making good conversation, invite a friend from church who is good at it to come, too. Don’t feel bad that you aren’t a good conversationalist.
Are you administrative? Create a system for people at your church to help pick up international students from the airport when they arrive in the country to study at your local university.
How has God gifted you and how can you use it to share the gospel with people who need to hear it? We’d love to hear from you. May you be encouraged today by the unique ways God has created women all over the world to be a part of His mission!
Julie is ta Digital Marketing and Social Media Strategist for the ERLC. She is married to Jesse and they have 3 children, one of whom was born in Madrid, Spain during their time with the International Mission Board.
Pastor Ronni recently returned from his second trip to northeast Italy where he met with pastors, Christians and skeptics. He led Bible studies, shared the gospel, strategized and built relationships with locals.
There are a lot of details that we want to roll out to you in the coming weeks about this partnership and there’s not enough time in this post to do all of that, but we wanted to share one short challenge with you to begin praying for with us.
Emmaus is a sending church and we want you to pray for those who will be sent.
In the coming months Emmaus will be sending a team to Italy to begin the process of declaring the gospel, building relationships and planting churches. Some of you will be going with us.
In summer 2018 we would like to put people in Italy for the entire summer to do the same. Some of you will be going for us.
In the next few years our hope is to put someone on the ground long-term, a few of you will be going for us.
Emmaus, will you begin praying with us today for those who will be sent by Emmaus – that God would make it clear to their hearts of this calling, and that their hearts and minds would be preparing even now.
Will you go?
One year ago this month, Emmaus embarked on her first ever international mission trip by sending two of our members on a vision trip with a team to northeast Italy to see what God might be calling us to do in order to see God glorified and churches multiplied in Italy.
Throughout that trip our team saw God clearly close doors and open doors. Over the weeks and months that followed the Emmaus elders and a few others spent much time in prayer and planning to see what God was calling us to.
Throughout that time God was gracious to lead us to partner with another Missouri church for the purpose of reaching a city in northeast Italy with the gospel. Together, Emmaus Church and Freshwater Church Bolivar will target the city of Padova in Italy to see God glorified and churches multiplied.
By partnering with Freshwater, we are able to see more teams in Italy each year and we gain the missional and partnership experience of Freshwater, who has seen God start churches in several countries through their partnerships.
Over the last year Emmaus has continued to pray for Italy, while meeting and planning with Freshwater about what this partnership will look like. This waiting time can seem long and can seem aimless to some, but it was essential for us as we sought to only walk through doors that God was opening in this city and in their culture. We knew that apart from God’s gracious provision of an in-country partner, this work would be slow and extremely difficult.
Later this month Pastor Ronni will take his second trip to Italy along with Pastor Dave from Freshwater, and they will meet with our connection in Italy and the group of Christians. For five days they will pray, strategize, teach about church, share the gospel with dozens of Italians who have already vocalized a desire to hear Ronni and Dave tell them about the gospel, and we will begin the process of planting a church and reaching a city so that God would be glorified and churches would be multiplied.
How can you help?
- Please begin praying today for Pastor Ronni and Pastor Dave that they’d have discernment and wisdom.
- Please begin praying for our Italian church planter, that he’d have faith and reliance on Christ.
- Please begin praying for this group of believers in Padova — that they’d be burdened for their city and emboldened to share the gospel.
- Please begin praying about the possibility of going with us in 2017 or 2018.
The plan moving forward:
Pastor Ronni and Pastor Dave will set a more firm plan in motion while on this trip, but it appears as if we are ready to begin sending teams this year! Pray as these plans unfold. Our expectation is that we would send a team in the summer of 2017 and again in the fall of 2017. Perhaps God is calling you to be on one of these teams. Perhaps God is calling you to help send one of these teams. I know he is calling us all to pray for all of these teams. So let’s pray.