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THE WHOLE CHURCH, THE WHOLE GOSPEL, THE WHOLE WORLD

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“The whole Church, taking the whole gospel, to the whole world.”

This was a rallying cry that came out of a pivotal conference for the global church in 2010 through a movement called Lausanne. This organization exists to connect church leaders from around the world around the topic of how the last commands Jesus left with the church can be accomplished. In Matthew 28:18-20 it says, And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore 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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

Any military person knows that when in doubt, go with the last command. Jesus left us with a command that ALL nations, ALL ethnicities, ALL languages, ALL tribes should be taken the message of his life, death, and resurrection. This last command gave us the mandate behind what Jesus had spent his last three years demonstrating--that God’s heart is for ALL people. This last command gave us a mandate behind what all of Scripture in the Old Testament pointed to--that God’s heart is for ALL people. That is the thrust behind this rallying cry: “The whole Church taking the whole gospel, to the whole world.”

Based on Jesus’ last command, as well as the rest of Scripture, it is easy to see why “the whole gospel is to go to the whole world.” It is only through the “whole gospel” that we see the “whole” story of Jesus. Without his life, death, and resurrection--all of it--we have nothing. This “whole gospel” must make its way to the “whole world.”

Over and over and over again, throughout Scripture, we see the importance of the whole world, every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, worshipping Jesus. It’s in the purpose of creation (Genesis 1:28-29). It’s in the promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). It’s throughout the story of the exile, law, and establishment of Israel (Exodus 9:16, Deuteronomy 4:6-7, 1 Samuel 17:45-47). It’s in the Psalms of David (46:10, 67:1-7). It’s in the prophets (Isaiah 49:6, Habakkuk  2:10). It’s throughout the life of Christ, summarized in his last commands (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:45-47, Acts 1:8), and it’s in the promise of the victory to come (Revelation 5:9, Revelation 7:9). It’s clear that God intends the “whole gospel to go to the whole world.”

But what about the “whole church?” Is that just a way of saying that the church in the world is supposed to bring the “whole gospel to the whole world?” Or is it a way to say that the every part of the church--every member of every church--is supposed to take the “whole gospel to the whole world?” I believe it is the latter.

If it is clear that God’s goal is that the “whole gospel would go to the whole world,” then it must follow that his goal for his people, his church, is to accomplish his goal. When Jesus commanded the eleven disciples on that mountain to “make disciples of all nations,” it was something he expected to get done. It is something He expects “the whole church” to be a part of. Often people ask about God’s will and purpose for their lives is in order to get direction. A better way to find that direction may be to find out what he has already revealed through Scripture about his will and his purpose and line up their lives with that.

Some may wonder, “I’ve never left the country, and I may never leave the country. I’m not a missionary and I don’t feel called to missions, so how can this possibly apply to me?” Somewhere along the way, “missions” became a specific ministry option. We came to think that just some people are called into mission. Some people have a “heart” for missions. Some people cry when they see commercials about starving children overseas. Some people love foods from other cultures. These people, of course, are “called” into missions, and, the rest of us are “called” into other areas of ministry, or so the thinking goes.

But what if “missions” was not a specific ministry outcome, but rather the means of accomplishing what God set out to accomplish from the beginning of time--that ALL people would experience his grace and worship him forever? What if no one is “called” into missions, but instead, all are “commanded” into missions? What if the variable on the table is not “am I called into missions,” but rather “where will I live out my command into missions?” The fact remains that many will not move to another country, but the purpose of God, and by extension “the whole church,” still stands: make disciples of all nations.

That is why, as a church, we are so excited about Welcoming. In God’s grace, He has utilized the movement of people throughout history to extend his glory to the far corners of the world. Sometimes those with the gospel have gone out, either as missionaries or people traveling for business. Sometimes, as was the case with Israel in the Old Testament, people with the message of the one true God were actually taken into captivity, but they bring their message with them. Sometimes, as is the case in America today, God brings people without the message of God to those who have it.

As a church in Baton Rouge in 2016, we have an unprecedented opportunity to welcome those nations God has brought from a place without the gospel to a place that has it. As a part of “the whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world,” we can rejoice that God has brought much of the world to us.

As a church, we  must not miss the opportunity we have before us. The sad fact is that 80-90% of people who come from another country to our city will never be invited into an American home. As part of God’s “whole church,” we must embrace this opportunity to the fullest. As part of God’s “whole church,” we must each ask ourselves, and God, how we are to take part in his heart for these people. As part of God’s “whole church,” we must recognize the incredible strategic potential of reaching people from the “whole world” here with the “whole gospel” and send them back to their own people to continue to expand the “whole church.”

At The Chapel, we are praying every single person who comes into Baton Rouge from another country will leave having been loved by a follower of Jesus and having had the message of Jesus explained. Baton Rouge has almost 20,000 foreign residents, and almost 2,000 international students. The task is daunting, but we have a Savior who not only commanded us to “make disciples of all nations,” but one who has “all authority in heaven and on earth” and one who said he will “be with us, even to the end of the age.” Through his authority and because of his presence, we can be obedient to his commands.

“The whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world.” How will you be a part of God’s desire to see every tribe, tongue, people, and nation worshipping Jesus forever? As a first step, reach out in love, in Jesus’ name, to Welcome someone from another country at your work, in your neighborhood, or at your child’s school. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is! And I hope you are encouraged to know how strategic it is. For some easy opportunities to be a part of what God is doing among the nations in our city this fall, check out our website.

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine on us, that your ways may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.” Psalm 67:1-2

Posted by Steve Elworth with

HOPE GROWS

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The first time I went to Wildwood Elementary School with The Chapel’s Kids Hope USA (KHUSA) mentoring program was in 2012. I didn’t feel qualified to be a weekly mentor, so I agreed to serve as a substitute. I was paired with a 3rd grade girl who was struggling in life, and her school work showed it.

“Tamira is failing math,” they told me. I was sure I was qualified to spend time with a little girl who needed kindness and some help in math. After all I am a Chemical Engineer and had already raised two little girls of my own. This would be perfect for me.

I found after a few months that Tamira didn’t need me to raise her. She has a family who loves her. She didn’t need me to teach her math either. Tamira was a math whiz! She just couldn’t focus on the lessons and absorb the information because she was bogged down with life stressors that a seven year old shouldn’t have to deal with. So we talked, painted, read books and planted an iris together.

My family and my Community Group prayed for Tamira. One night we brought dinner to her family, and we were able to pray with them. This family of six had been evicted from their home and had to move in with relatives, another family of 6.

During the summer, we were thrilled to be able to provide a scholarship, Bible and swimsuits for Tamira and her siblings so they could attend Camp in the City. There they heard all about Jesus. In time her family moved again, which took Tamira away from Wildwood to a new school. For a while, I met with her at her new school, but during this period, I was asked to pray about stepping in as The Chapel’s KHUSA Director.

Once again I wasn’t sure I was qualified for the role, but by then I understood that child rearing and engineering were not the only things I had to share. More than anything, I wanted hurting, seeking and lost people to see Christ’s love in action.

As I spent time at Wildwood, first as a mentor and then as the new KHUSA Director, I became acquainted with children and families from all walks of life. I felt the Lord’s hand as we took steps to come alongside in hard times and His assurance that seeds are being planted, and there is hope.

One of my greatest joys is to see other people experience what I have experienced. I want them to learn first hand how through love, prayer and faith, a life can be changed! Mentor after mentor, child after child, others are discovering what God can do through them to provide hope. Here are some of their stories.

CHARLOTTE

Dougie was in kindergarten when his teacher appealed for special help. Charlotte was asked to mentor him. Over the next three years, he adjusted to being in a classroom setting, but his reading did not progress past the first grade level.

Dougie’s behavior regressed along with his grades. Charlotte worked with his teachers and helped as she could. She also prayed daily for his needs to be identified and a solution to be found. Finally Dougie was moved to a special ed class mid-year, and he began to flourish. By year four, Charlotte was confident he would continue to make academic advances.

Charlotte’s years serving at Wildwood gave her a perspective on the needs of other students as well. Because such a large percentage of Wildwood families live in poverty, all of the students at the school receive breakfast and lunch each school day. School is a good place to be when you are hungry, but in some families, weekend meals are meager, pantries are bare and the children are hungry.

In response to this need, Charlotte brought the Blessings in a Backpack program to Wildwood. She arranged for volunteers to sort food and put it in backpacks for the neediest children to take home on the weekend.

This year, her sixth as a Wildwood mentor, Charlotte watched Dougie graduate with his class at the ceremony held at The Chapel in the Oaks. She celebrated this milestone with his family and was humbled and honored to be asked to be his mentor and emergency contact when he moved on to middle school.

IRENE

Irene first walked into Wildwood when she was in Baton Rouge to visit her adult daughter Vickie. She had been talking to Vickie about her desire to donate “to a good cause.” so Vickie suggested Wildwood and then called me for direction. We set up a time for Irene to tour the school, assess needs and contribute as her heart led.

We made it as far as the first hallway when Irene met Ms. Simon, a 5th grade teacher. She listened as the teacher described the DNA of her class – vibrant young boys and girls limited only by their impoverished environment. They live in homes where furnishings are minimal, and quiet study space is nearly non-existent. They have no bookshelves waiting with adventure reading or supply boxes filled with coloring supplies and excess paper for creative expression. They live in an area of town where they cannot get to a library or enjoy art classes.

By contrast, Ms. Simon wanted her classroom to be a place where students could soak in knowledge, dream of adventure and reproduce information in personally crafted visual displays. Irene listened and returned home to California, but left a generous donation towards school supplies for Wildwood. One year later The Chapel was entrusted with another donation from Irene – for three times the original amount. All of it was “to be used by Wildwood teachers for their classrooms.”

JAKE

Jake was listening to Hans’ sermon at The Chapel in the Oaks one Sunday when he felt called to go to Wildwood. He contacted me and said he wanted to begin a track program at Wildwood like the one he did at his daughter’s school. He explained that her school had a nice track, good facilities and lots of opportunities for extracurricular activities, but he knew that the students at Wildwood do not have easy access to these things. Most of them live in substandard apartment buildings surrounded by concrete lots and crime-filled streets. They have little access to  grassy expanses in which to play or safe paths where they can bike or meet up with friends.

I had no idea if Jake’s plan was even feasible, so I brought him to Wildwood to meet PE Coach Mendoza. Coach said, “Yes!” even before I finished my introduction that began, “Jake wants to help with…”

Through their meeting, Jake began to volunteer during PE to do a running segment with a few 4th grade students each Monday. After a few months Jake sent a note home to the students’ parents telling them their child had practiced hard and performed well. He explained he felt the students were ready for a road race. If the parents would agree to bring the child to the starting gate and register, Jake would cover their entry fee. Five children showed up and ran that day!

Later that spring, Jake was the “go-to” guy for Wildwood Field day, bringing fellow National Guard members to ice down, load up and hand out water all day. Jake hopes to have the opportunity to incorporate running into the afterschool program at Wildwood. He told his precious daughter that he would not have time to do the program they loved at her school if he picked up the one at Wildwood, but he wanted her by his side for this so more kids could have that kind of fun.

RICK

Rick didn’t feel qualified to mentor because he had no children of his own. Yet, because he knew there are children all around who need someone to tell them they are valuable, he went to Wildwood. He began to meet weekly with Martin, got to know him better and spoke the truth of his value over him each week when they met.

When Martin graduated from 5th grade, Rick asked me if he could buy him a gift. Usually we discourage gift-giving in the mentoring sessions, but I said sure and wondered what a guy who  had no son of his own would pick out for a 5th grade boy.

I shouldn’t have been concerned. From spending time with him, taking interest in his likes and hopes and in his life overall, Rick knew exactly what would please him. “You should have seen his face when I gave him the gift. He was so excited he ran over and showed his family,” Rick told me later. It was gumbo, Martin’s favorite food.

Rick shared these stories weekly with his faithful prayer partner who has been at Wildwood many times but considers prayer as his most valuable role. One thing they prayed for was a better setting for mentoring. At that time mentors and students used whatever space they could find, but none of it was conducive to building a relationship. The busy auditorium and cafeteria were filled with distractions. Hallways and the stage were cramped and awkward. Resources were located in the teachers’ lounge and sports equipment was in a hall closet.

His prayers were followed by personal action, and Rick became instrumental in pursuing grants, donations and purchase options for providing a dedicated mentoring center. His prayers, perseverance and persistence are embodied in the Hope Center that The Chapel provided through Project Generosity, our annual Easter offering.

Rick no longer considers himself unqualified. Now he is awed by the God who considers him worthy to serve these families.

By the way, the iris that Tamira and I planted four years ago is still in the same pot in my garden. It has yet to send up the spectacular bloom it is known for, but it is alive. Every year there are more leaves. I believe it will bloom and be more beautiful than I ever hoped or imagined.

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