Wednesday, July 24, 2024
Wednesday, July 24, 2024
HomeAll The NewsSPOTLIGHT ON MISSIONS: Michael & Laura Beth Strong • Minneapolis, Minn.

SPOTLIGHT ON MISSIONS: Michael & Laura Beth Strong • Minneapolis, Minn.

I am writing with excitement because of all God has been doing. While we know He is always working, sometimes that work is mainly done “under the soil.” Then there are the times you see the growth popping up out of the ground. This is one of the times I’ve been blessed to see growth popping up out of the ground! God has done it, is doing it and I am sure He will continue to do it going forward.

We have formally been working to plant in Minneapolis, at least part-time, since April 2019. COVID and the George Floyd riots came in and dramatically changed our city and our church planting work. By the time we came back from raising funds to go full-time in late 2020, we found all our people had either moved or decided to stay safe at home while COVID was running rampant. God redirected us to work with men (and later women) who were in recovery from drugs and alcohol, as well as some who were in prison re-entry, which occurs when someone who has been incarcerated for an extended time is released and re-enters society. This has been a fruitful ministry.

Before working with the recovery and re-entry community, we saw the first fruits of God’s work. We had four people who came to Christ and were baptized. We had one other who came to Christ but was not baptized and moved as well as one man who re-committed his life to Christ and decided to rejoin fellowship with his parents at their church. This was highly encouraging to us, especially since the soil in Minneapolis can be extremely hard. Significant amounts of time need to be invested in each person to work through the various issues the Holy Spirit begins to expose as impediments to the gospel before you begin to see faith spring up. Discipleship can be toilsome. The culture stands directly against Orthodox Christianity and points to either Catholic and Orthodox religious practices or a “led by the heart” Christless Christianity, both of which are not Christianity at all!

Since that time, we have seen 14 people come to Christ for a total of 18 souls saved from separation from God in eternal conscious torment in Hell! We still have two new believers to baptize, but we have baptized 12 of the 14 who have come as a result of the work in this new community. We plan to hold another baptism service on Aug. 19. I am currently leading two new member classes with six people who are not currently members and believe there may also be a few more new believers in Christ in those groups. What a blessing it is to be a part of laboring in this glorious harvest!

We are seeing new traction in our people to be missional, which is important to us in our work. We don’t want to make “baby Christians” and just start there. We want to do the work Jesus has assigned each of us — make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey all that Christ has commanded. We are working diligently to be about both parts of that commission.

We are at a crucial juncture of the process. We are asking God to flip the switch in our people to bring about their work in making disciples. They have become increasingly willing to serve in various ways to bring people in to hear the gospel, but we are hopeful they will see the simplicity of the commission. We are called to make disciples as we are going or wherever we go. We aren’t called to bring the people to church to get them saved. We are called to pursue them where they are and work to share the hope we have in Jesus with them, leading them to Christ, then bringing them in to be baptized and join the church. Anyone can do this in the groups of people God has divinely put them around. This includes family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, people in your hobby groups and anyone you might meet while out doing your normal errands or activities in your weekly rhythms.

I believe we are at the point where we are going to see more and more of our people overflowing in the praise of King Jesus and what He has accomplished through gospel proclamation in their normal conversations with the people they care about. When that happens, I can’t imagine how white the harvest fields will be!

What God continues to put on my heart for this church plant is to get the main thing right. The main thing I am speaking of is establishing a love and devotion for Jesus Christ and His kingdom that is alive and well and working in our people. If the program or study isn’t accomplishing this, we shut it down and prayerfully look for something else. As much as planting is about routine, rhythm, habits of grace and a patient, longsuffering work of love, it is also an active, shifting, dependent seeking of God and what He is doing today, in this moment. That means we stay in flux to some degree. God is blessing that willingness to be interrupted, redirected, humbled and called to find Him and work alongside Him. We can do nothing we do not see the Father doing. We need eyes to see, and He is helping us.

As the church plant grows, so do the needs to serve our people and the community at large. The most important needs today are people who love Jesus and seek His glory as well as the recovery and re-entry community that are faithful and willing to be a part of the mission to reach the people of North Minneapolis. We also need help with transportation since we have many more people who want to come to church but don’t have licenses or funds. Beyond that, we are hoping to reach out to our community through several outreaches that can have a significant impact on the people who are hurting the most.

The biggest outreach, financially, is a backpack giveaway where we hope to reach families as they prepare to go back to school. Incarceration and addiction have both greatly impacted our neighbors, especially the children of those who are lost in addiction and missing due to incarceration. The last thing we want children to have to worry about as they return to school is having the basic supplies to do their work.

We also desire to host a Financial Workshop and a Family Law Legal Help Workshop. We plan to feed our people and hire Christian speakers who specialize in these areas so we can serve and connect with attendees. We will be working diligently to connect with our neighbors and find ways to share the gospel. If the gospel does not go out, we do not accomplish our main goal and we miss fulfilling our mission. We want to provide all kinds of help, but our primary focus is on calling sheep into the fold through gospel proclamation.

If you would like to partner with us to fulfill these outreach plans or if you have questions, please feel free to reach out to me (Mike) by email at mike@nnccmpls.com. For the faithful partners that have been standing with us through the years, we are so thankful for you, and we can’t say it or show it enough. We couldn’t do any of this without God providing through you. It is a joy to be your partner.

I look forward to updating you in the months to come as we move forward in completing the work of this first church plant in Minnesota. May God lead us to plant many more right here in the years to come!

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