Disillusionment Opens Doors to the Gospel

Alliance News Feed – Disillusionment Opens Doors to the Gospel

by an Alliance international worker serving in the Middle East

Disillusionment with the prevailing religious system in our host country seems to be spreading. My wife and I have served here for 15 years, but in the last few years we’ve seen more multiplication of disciples than ever before.

One example is Abu Mohammad*, my close friend from the majority religious group who is now a believer. I recently visited him while his mother was in the hospital before she passed away. As we drank coffee together in the waiting room, Abu Mohammad excitedly told me that God had brought something good out of the sad news of his mother’s rapidly declining health.

Because of their many hours in the hospital together, Abu Mohammad had ample opportunities to talk to his relatives about his faith in Christ. He was surprised by the new openness he was seeing in them after enduring years of emotional and physical abuse at their hands because of his faith.

Abu Mohammad’s father, who had been especially hostile toward him, showed remarkable receptiveness, saying, “I still don’t want you to advertise to everyone what you believe, but my own beliefs about God are growing. I’m not ready to be just like you, but my view of God is changing, and my life has also changed.”

On the first Thursday night after his mother died, the family had a reading for her soul from their holy book. This is a traditional practice of the majority religion to entreat God for the forgiveness of the deceased one’s sins so he or she might get into heaven.

As a follower of Christ, Abu Mohammad did not feel he could participate in this and was concerned that he would be confronted by his family for refusing. But he was encouraged that 15 of his relatives also opted out, enduring scornful stares yet finding solidarity in resisting the ritual together.

One of our dreams is that a large group of Abu Mohammad’s people will come to faith in Christ so more will feel free to follow Him without fear of persecution. Please pray that God will bring a mighty harvest and that the disillusioned will find hope in Christ.

*Name changed


Source: Alliance News Feed – Disillusionment Opens Doors to the Gospel

Releasing the Prisoners from Darkness

Alliance News Feed – Releasing the Prisoners from Darkness

by an Alliance international worker serving in the Balkans

In our first term as international workers, my husband and I moved to a new city to help with a church plant. Dasha* lived in an apartment a couple floors upstairs from the storefront space we had acquired for our services. Her kids attended our English classes, and that summer Dasha came to our first camp with them.

“Just being in a worship service for the first time made me feel like this is where I belonged,” she said.

Dasha attended our church for about a year but was afraid to commit to Jesus because she didn’t know how her husband, Abe, would react. Finally, she reached a point where she couldn’t wait any longer, so she surrendered her life to Christ and was baptized.

A Cry for Justice

Unfortunately, Abe, though somewhat accepting of her new faith, began holding tighter to his family’s tradition—the majority religion of the Middle East.

More than 20 years ago, Abe experienced unimaginable horrors at the hands of people who identified themselves as Christians. His hometown was ravaged during wartime by soldiers who claimed to follow Christ. It’s a place where you can sense the blood-soaked ground crying for justice.

Abe was taken captive twice during the war. At one point, his father was beaten so badly he couldn’t walk. Abe decided that it was time to escape. While the guards were terrorizing women in another part of the building that night, he lifted his father onto his back and started to run.

As Abe was making his way through a dense forest secured with landmines in the dark, a blinking light appeared, suspended in mid-air. It led Abe safely through the trees and disappeared as soon as he and his father reached the other side.

Soon they came to a river filled with dead bodies. As Abe waded through it with his father still on his back, he turned over every body. He thought one might be his first wife or one of his young children.

When he arrived on the other side of the river, he was back in his own country and easily made it to safety with his father. Abe was soon reunited with his wife and children, who were unharmed.

Worth Saving?

Abe is just one of many in his hometown who were traumatized by the atrocities committed by people who wrongly assumed the name of Christ. When our church started pursuing ministry outreaches to this town three hours away, Dasha was not optimistic, saying, “I don’t have any hope or vision for that area.”

However, the Lord recently started opening doors to ministry in this town with no known believers. An outreach weekend last August reached 35 women in this village. Dasha was encouraged by the participants’ comments and the way they connected.

This opened the door to more ministry among these people. This past Christmas, my team brought presents to 200 children in this town in partnership with a family of four from Alliance Bible Church in Mequon, Wisconsin.

One of the women from the city, Amara, said she found it hard to understand why we would give so much and expect nothing in return, giving me a wonderful opportunity to explain more about faith in Christ and how we show His love through our actions.

Our team is already looking into more possibilities for outreaches to this area, including a connection with teachers working with children who have special needs. We don’t know what the Lord has planned, but we are open and listening for his voice.

*Names changed


Source: Alliance News Feed – Releasing the Prisoners from Darkness

Generational Discipleship

Alliance News Feed – Generational Discipleship

by Calvin Dorsey, lead and planting pastor of Sandusky (Ohio) Life Church

I searched through the department store for the perfect gift, like an archaeologist hoping to find that one object that wasn’t merely a rock but also a calcified gem from some ancient creature. Why was this gift so important to me? It was the first time I went Father’s Day shopping for anyone, and ironically, this man for whom the gift was for, I had no biological connection.

His name was Benjamin Isabell, and he was the first godly man I had ever witnessed in an up-close-and-personal way. Though a flawed man—as we all are—he wore his imperfections in such a way to display only the grace of God bestowed upon him. He never met a person who didn’t deserve his help nor someone unworthy of his love. The largeness of his generosity was rivaled only by the size of his inviting smile.

Pastor Isabell, as we affectionately called him, taught me from age 19 not only how to be a man but also, more importantly, how to be a man of God. Unbeknownst to me, he discipled me. He generously offered his time, treasure, energy, wisdom, and knowledge to see me transformed into Christ’s image.

Mentor-pupil Relationship

Ron and Anita Morrison have served at Hope Alliance Bible Church in Maple Heights, Ohio, since 1995.

Having experienced this tutelage from such an early place in my walk, the concept of discipleship was forever ingrained in my philosophy. Over the last 15 years, I have always sought out and maintained a consistent mentor-pupil relationship in every aspect of my life. Whether it’s marriage, school, ministry, or any other intangible of life, I see discipleship as essential for the believer’s health.

Shortly after my time concluded with Pastor Isabell, I searched for new counsel, and God led me to Dr. Ron Morrison of The Christian and Missionary Alliance.

Still very influential to this day, his example and teaching have set the bar for Christ-like leadership within the church. His heart to equip and support next-generation leaders is reminiscent of the apostle Paul’s. He makes himself available to contact for support and offers genuine concern for my family’s needs. Paul’s appeal to Timothy was to establish generational discipleship, and I see that same fervor in Ron’s heart.

Role Models

Growing up in a household where strong leadership was sparse and godly leadership wasn’t a thought, I had to look elsewhere. A person I strongly admired was none other than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I know when you see that name, you think, Cliché. But I didn’t have just a general affection or respect for him; I deeply admired him for his tenacity and strong sense of justice.

I listened to several of his speeches in constant, repetitive nature. I sought out to play him in theatrical school performances. I repackaged his sermons, speeches, and writing for class presentations. Though I never met him in person, he shepherded many of my passions today. His life was a testament to the value God places on every individual’s life. His teachings showed me that standing up for injustice was not just a human rights agenda but also an attribute of the God Almighty.

To have the privilege of discipleship and the example from these strong men of color was life changing. There was a strong sense of comfort and familiarity knowing that we as Christian African-American men experienced similar cultures, saw the world through the same lens, and are citizens of the same Kingdom.

My prayer is that I can continue to honor God by following these men as they have followed Christ and set the same example for the next generation of leaders.


Source: Alliance News Feed – Generational Discipleship

Good News for Kris

Alliance News Feed – Good News for Kris

by Brian Lindsay, who serves with The Alliance in Thailand

My wife, Abby, and I are thankful for what’s becoming a common sight for us: people coming to church whom we’ve never met. That’s how we connected with Kris* several weeks ago. This 14-year-old was teaching another teen, Belle, to play basketball. In what’s become a natural part of her everyday life, Belle—a new believer—shared her faith while they played.

It wasn’t long before Kris prayed to receive Christ. For the next two weeks he was in church whenever the doors were open, even attending Evangelism Explosion classes.

Brainwashed?

But the change in Kris didn’t go unnoticed by his Buddhist family, who were dubious of Christianity. They were also concerned that foreigners were brainwashing him. Kris’s uncle and aunt, with whom the family shares a home, yelled and cursed at the boy, saying he would be unwelcome there if he left the Buddhist faith.

Kris, in a green and gray shirt, and another new believer are prayed for by the church’s Bible student intern. (Photo courtesy of the Lindsays)

Kris’s father, who at first had been indifferent to Kris’s desire to attend church, was soon soured by the other relatives. He began to pressure Kris not to attend.

Knowing his family members were unhappy with his decision to follow Jesus, Kris was unsure of what to do. One of our colleagues advised him not to argue with his family about going to church. Instead, she encouraged him to honor his father and wait until he gave Kris permission to attend.

A Good Son

Through his obedience, Kris showed his family that Jesus was helping him to be a good son. We encouraged Kris to study his Bible at home and said we would pray for God to change his family members’ hearts.

Sure enough, God answered! Last Saturday, a group of Thai church members studying Evangelism Explosion visited Kris and his family and shared the gospel with them.

After they heard the good news for themselves from Thai believers, the family agreed to allow Kris to follow his new faith. Not only that—Kris’s grandmother also prayed to receive Jesus as her Savior that day. Again, we praise the Lord for how He continues to raise up Thai people to reach the Thai!

Intercede for Kris as he begins his new journey with Christ. Pray that his family will continue to be supportive of his new faith. Also, pray for me as I meet weekly with Kris and the two other teenagers in our church, Belle and Manow, to study the Scriptures together.

*Name changed


Source: Alliance News Feed – Good News for Kris

Four Men I Consider Heroes

Alliance News Feed – Four Men I Consider Heroes

by Leonard Tanks Jr., assistant pastor at Hope Alliance Bible Church in Maple Heights, Ohio

My mother abandoned me, and although my father raised me, he lacked the ability to encourage. As a child, I rarely heard “good job” or “I’m proud of you.” As a result, I struggled with belonging. I did not feel accepted and never thought I was enough for my parents or family.

Those same feelings of inadequacy stayed with me throughout adolescence and early adulthood. They even carried over into my walk with Christ.

I overworked myself as a believer, leader, and pastor; took on more responsibilities than required; and overcompensated to prove my worth. Feelings of inadequacy sparked a great sense of pride as I felt the need to get credit and accolades to prove my value to others and to myself.

Fortunately, I have been blessed with great men of faith as mentors and disciplemakers who loved me, taught me, challenged me, and encouraged me. Rev. Dr. Ron Morrison, an Alliance pastor, stands out as the most influential.

Giving God the Glory

Leonard Tanks Jr., assistant pastor at Hope Alliance Bible Church, conducts a funeral for a young man who was shot and killed at a local park. (Photo courtesy of the author)

Ron sought to know me, to understand my past, to understand my issues and hang ups, and to support and love me through them. He knew the worst of me and never stopped pouring into me or believing in who God called me to be.

Ron gently pushed me to identify my imperfections and guided me in my efforts to allow Jesus to work on those secret areas of my being. In the safety of our relationship, I was able to remove my mask and become comfortable with the man God created.

Additionally, Ron taught me humble, servant leadership. By his actions and motivations, he exhibited qualities of Jesus. He proved that African-American pastors and churches are not all focused on fancy suits, buildings, parking spaces, and number of people in the seats for Sunday morning service. He showed me the African-American church is not focused on getting glory but giving God the glory. Ron taught me that success is not depicted by numbers but by faithfulness to God’s will.

If God had not allowed my path to cross with Ron’s, I might not be where I am today but instead leading an inauthentic “ministry” more focused on myself than on God.

Finding Belonging

I’m unable to identify a historic African American who has influenced me. African-American history had previously bored me. I felt it was a repetitive narrative given from the perspective of the dominate culture.

While I acknowledge the key figures and appreciate their contribution to history, I rejected the narrative that painted black people as slaves, uncivilized, uneducated, or buffoons, while painting white people as educated, civilized, and colonized.

A couple years ago, I began to study and understand African history and African-American history outside of the stereotypical narrative. By understanding the left-out history that blacks have had in Christianity, I now know I belong as a black Christian.

Moving Forward

Leonard Tanks Jr. holds his son at a baby dedication at Hope Alliance Bible Church in Maple Heights, Ohio. (Photo courtesy of the author)

Some modern African-American scholars and theologians who have been influential to me include Dr. Eric Mason, Jerome Gray, and Vince Bantu. They have opened my eyes and my heart to a more complete view of black history and black Christian history. Through their teachings, I have guarded myself against assimilation and have begun to embrace who I am as a black man.

With their guidance, I have taken the time to understand and appreciate the worship styles of the Coptic and the Nubians. This knowledge has compelled me to have a greater appreciation for all cultures. It has also enhanced my belief in freeing all cultures to express their love for God within the restrictions of the Bible, while in a way that connects with their culture and doesn’t assimilate to the dominate culture’s expression. The influence of men like Eric, Jerome, and Vince teaches me that I can be unapologetically black and unapologetically Christian without contradiction.

Men like Ron, Eric, Jerome, and Vince I consider heroes. Their lives, teaching, and writings are equipping me to accept my Ephesians 2:10 make up while moving forward in ministry to reach up, reach in, and reach out.


Source: Alliance News Feed – Four Men I Consider Heroes

February 24 is Church Planting Sunday

Alliance News Feed – February 24 is Church Planting Sunday

Every church plant has a unique story—including yours. Have you ever stopped to wonder where you might be if someone had not answered God’s call to plant the church you now call home?

Imagine the lives of those sitting beside you—would they have come to know the riches we find in Jesus? Imagine your community—would it be the same without the bright light of your church’s presence? Consider the Alliance workers throughout the world that your church helped send through its prayers and financial support. If they had never been sent, how many more of the world’s people would still lack access to the good news and be facing a hopeless existence and a Christless eternity?

Resources

The Alliance plants churches because Jesus wants to make Himself known to those who need Him most—the lost, hurting, and overlooked. If you sense God nudging you to become a part of a church-planting effort, use these resources to find out how you can get involved in this Kingdom movement and celebrate Church Planting Sunday for a few minutes in your church service.

Bulletin Insert

Download a church-planting insert for use in your church’s Sunday bulletin.


Download English Insert
Download Spanish Insert

Video

Share the story of New Hope Community Church detailed in the article Worth the Risk, or watch the video and download for use during your church service.


Download English Video
Download Spanish Video

Website

Visit the Alliance Church-Planting website for some great print and video resources to help your church discover:

  • How The Alliance started as a church plant
  • How your church is already involved in planting
  • How our Acts 1:8 values are being lived out through planting
  • Where the church plants in your district are taking place
  • How to interact with and pray for a church planter during your worship service
  • 10 Ways to Help a Church Plant/Planter
  • What a Greenhouse church is and how your church can become one


Source: Alliance News Feed – February 24 is Church Planting Sunday

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