Committed & Passionate
by Al Reimche
There are many things that I could write about this month. Executive committee decisions, town hall meetings, visits to different churches, and the Conference Bible Experience for Pathfinders all have stories to tell or information to share, but the standouts for me were two events, both on the same day last week.
Last Wednesday David Freedman and I were asked to look at a church which our Russian congregation is interested in purchasing. We drove to the site and took a tour of the building which would give the congregation the opportunity to have a church to call home after renting for a number of years. The building looked well maintained, newly renovated, and appeared to be just what they needed. After the tour we sat together and discussed the financial challenge of the potential purchase. The members explained the need for a home base to continue expanding the kingdom in the Portland area. They talked about the work they were currently involved in with both radio and television in reaching Russian families in the community. They talked about the immigrant nature of the church, how many have just recently come to America and are struggling to make ends meet in their new home. Many of the youth in the church are working hard to gain an education so that they can be productive members in this new country.
It became apparent as we talked that though this church facility would be a great blessing for the congregation, they were struggling to find the necessary funds to make the required down payment. It was in this setting that they told me the story of how this possiblity had been shared with the congregation and members had begun digging deep to find ways to make this dream a reality. One of the 16-year-old youth spent last summer working to earn enough to purchase his first car. Throughout the summer he had been able to save $800 and was dreaming of what he could buy with those funds. I am sure it was a difficult decision to make but after hearing the need he made one of the biggest sacrifices of his life by giving those $800 to help his church with the purchase.
The church is still $300,000 short of the required funds, but we cannot lose sight of that example of leadership by a member of our youth. I also heard about a young girl who brought her piggy bank to her parents and asked, "Would this be enough to buy the church?" It is going to take a miracle for this purchase to happen, but God is capable of taking the leadership and sacrifice of these young people and multiplying it for His glory. If you want to be part of this miracle, send your gift to the Oregon Conference Russian Building Fund.
Later the same day I was privilieged to listen as a group of young adults met at the Newberg church to share their dreams and passion for their church at the 180 Symposium. For over two hours, these young adults described their affirmations of their church homes and then talked about their vision for the church they want to lead. The major themes of the evening's conversation included their desire for involvement, the need for older, experienced mentors, and opportunities for service.
I asked a question toward the end of the discussion about what the church would look like if they were given the chance to lead. The ideas that flowed from the group were inspiring and insightful. They shared ideas about organization, such as having more flexibility in the programming, changing the format (e.g., study/Sabbath School following the worship service), changing the start-time to later in the morning, and finding a way to involve everyone and their talents. They shared ideas about sermons and preaching which included having the sermon topic available for study before the sermon and following up afterward with engaged study, having fewer stand-alone sermon topics with more sermon series, inviting church members to preach (which would allow for more sharing of stories of God's impact in their lives), and keeping the sermon short in order to put more emphasis on fellowship. And finally, there were ideas about the overall spiritual direction of the church. These young adults want to see that the gospel is at the center of everything done, and that leadership is wholly consecrated and focused on discipleship.
One of the thoughts that was a major take-away from the night came part way through the two-hour discussion. When asked if entertainment was what they expected from their church, the young adults in this "180 degree symposium" stated that they would rather have an opportunity to bond and minister together than be entertained. As one said, "You can find happiness in a community without entertainment when you have a purpose."
With youth and young adults committed and passionate for God, our church is and will be in good hands.