Monday, June 17, 2024
Monday, June 17, 2024
HomeAll The NewsMISSIONS SPOTLIGHT: Michael & Laura Beth Strong

MISSIONS SPOTLIGHT: Michael & Laura Beth Strong

A lot has been going on in the work over the last month. I am excited to report there are going to be three baptisms on Feb. 27. We have had a sudden rush of men who have been led to be baptized in response to the gospel message and Jesus’ call. I met with all three of them and trained a young man who is being assessed to assist me with the work during the course of two of those meetings. There is a chance more men will come forward by the time of the meeting, so we are praying God will stir them and work in them to put their trust in Him and begin to walk in a new life.

To prepare to serve these men, we have been having discussions around finding a place to begin worshipping as a body of believers. We have several other men that are committed to starting a church, and we are working through a Membership Class. Each week, we go through different commitments each member would be responsible for if they were to join the church. The commitments are core beliefs that result in practical applications. These are things like following Jesus as the Way, Truth and Life, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, joining missional communities, growing in grace through spiritual disciplines, etc. We have had some amazing discussions in these sweet times each week and God has been working through each of the men as we discuss Scripture and how it impacts our lives as members of the body of Christ.

We also have seen God bring growth to all of our “open” groups. We have both “open” and “closed” groups. “open” groups are groups that anyone can join. These are specific Bible study groups that can vary on topics. We also have “closed” groups that allow us to work individually or with a specific group of people to disciple in a way that is conducive to a period of accelerated spiritual formation. They require more transparency and trust, so we build together in a smaller, closed group to accomplish our goals over a predetermined period of time. Accountability and committed relationships are high priorities in these groups.

I have had the privilege to travel and speak alongside our Spanish-speaking and Arabic-speaking church planter leaders. I have also been able to preach for one of our churches. God blessed that trip in creating a new partnership for missions. We are prayerful that others may join us as well. Our goal is to plant many churches, Lord willing, in much the same way we see these other language-based planters doing. My focus has been on forming and deploying leaders to oversee churches in their communities. This means we will need partners who can join us indefinitely as we see church after church established by God’s grace. We have several men I believe God is going to use for just that purpose in the future.

I have also been able to get some refreshment and clarity for the vision God has for His church. I took a 24-hour spiritual retreat to pray and study. This last week, I was also able to go to the Bethlehem College and Seminary Pastor’s Conference and see some friends and hear some powerful messages that have been a gracious help for stirring me up to dig in and do the work of an evangelist in a pretty hard-hearted city toward the true gospel. I am also working with people society would consider “outside the gate” folks. Our mission is to seek all the lost sheep God will employ us to gather. We want all of them. And we want to bring them to Jesus and see them made a part of His body. I work with men and women fighting drug addiction and alcoholism. I work with image bearers who are marked by society for the crimes they committed and paid for in prison. I work with broken people in broken families, people who struggle with mental illness and/or physical handicaps. We work with “despised people” who are often viewed and treated as less than human.

Our goal is to be Christ’s hands and feet to these people. We are committed to serving them with all we have and making disciples that have been given the opportunity to flourish in a life knowing Christ and making Him known. God is connecting us even now to work along with them to reach the world for Christ.

In all of this, we are still a family and have had the great opportunity to grow together in this season. We are getting to know new families at our kids’ school and at different YMCAs as our children take part in sports. They have needed this socialization as have we and God has been answering our prayers. As planters in a place where you have no family or history, it is easy to be isolated. We don’t always have a ton of kids coming with parents to church in our home. We live in an area where there were also a lot of people who were transient and had plans to move and serve in other church planting fields. We are prayerfully pursuing longer-term relationships with people who have planted roots here and growing in these new friendships. We praise God for good friends and the opportunity to dedicate our lives to loving them as long as He allows.

As I wrap up, I am already beginning to think through what will follow. I have other friends from around the country that are experienced pastors and missionaries. They have graciously answered the call to be on a Steering Committee for the work here. They will be leveraging their knowledge and skills to help us establish churches for a season. This Steering Committee is a temporary board of elders who will help lead as we raise up and train men to replace them in the coming year or two. Some of our disciples who exhibit faithfulness and specific spiritual gifts will be put in positions to begin leading. These leaders will get to sit in and train alongside the board as we work to see them formed into elder-qualified men who will oversee the church. Please pray for us as we prepare to have our first meeting.

Thank you for your prayers and support. It is a blessing and immense pleasure to serve as one of your North American church planters. Following God on mission has been an ever-increasing joyful experience. I am grateful to know you are praying for us and “holding the rope” as we work here in North Minneapolis.