Mike Cope's blog

Thursday, October 07, 2004

I love going to our elders' meetings. They are holy ground, full of prayer, affirming, discernment, and encouragement. That's not to say that there is never a disagreement; but those disagreements are in love and mutual respect. Honestly, some of the great faith-building moments of my life have been in Highland elders' meetings. Let me let you peek in on one part of last evening's meeting. We brought in a group of ACU students who are our "neighborhood walkers." About fifty students meet each week to walk down the streets around our building to meet people, build relationships, and pray. These students introduced themselves last night by telling us their name and what street(s) they walk. The stories are incredible. Of people who were resistent but now welcoming. Of relationships that have been formed. Of Highland neighbors who are now coming to our Wednesday Oasis meals (so many last night that we actually ran out of food! Where was the kid with the five loaves and two fish?). Of one teenager who bonded with the students, now attends Highland, and has joined one of the walking teams. I know one second-year Spanish student who knows much more Spanish than some of the people on her street know English. So she stumbles along with a smile on her face, communicating the love of Jesus as best she can. (She may be the most motivated student in her ACU Spanish class!) Years ago the elders decided not to move locations. We could easily be in a "better" part of town. It probably would have "paid off" in terms people like to measure like attendance and budget. But God has us where we are for a reason. Just think about the Colonial Apartments. Years ago it was only known as a run-down drug nest. Now, it's an outpost of the kingdom of God! Highland rents two apartments there where children are loved, read to, taught, prayed for, and blessed. And lots of residents of the apartments have become a vital part of our church. It's funny. A few people on the outside think that "the role of women" has become the defining issue of Highland. Ha! We've worked through that together as a congregation, for sure, as we have sought to discern the guiding of the Holy Spirit. (And another big announcement is coming from the elders this Sunday.) But that's not the big shift. The big shift is from seeing ourselves as a provider of consumer demands to an outpost of the kingdom of God that participates in his mission in this world. That's the big movement. And it's exciting! As the elders encircled these students last night to lay hands on them and pray for them (especially for their safety in our neighborhood), there were lots of smiles and a few tears.

18 Comments:

  • Wow, what an exciting time! I have decided I am going to stop asking "So how many members attend where you go?" and start asking "So, what is God doing through the church you attend?" It is a much better indication of the spiritual health of the church.

    Steve

    By Blogger Steve Duer, at 10/07/2004 05:21:00 AM  

  • Sounds like the other defining issue of Highland is that it's lead by Godly elders who understand the role of SHEPHERD! Encouraging and knowing the flock, praying over them, listening to them, strengthening them... awesome! And a minister who actually looks forward to meeting with them... now that's cool!! Blessings! SkipD

    By Blogger SkipD, at 10/07/2004 05:53:00 AM  

  • Praise the LORD for this wonderful group of Elders at Highland! And praise Him for changing the course of our congregation's goals! How wonderful it is to be part of a group dedicated to presenting God's Good News to the lost, rather than being so concerned about the rituals of corporate worship! Praise Him and may He bring a great harvest of saved souls from Satan's clutches!!!

    I'm in tears as I write this. Is there any greater task than extending our hands and hearts, opening up God's grace to the desperate and lost soul? If there is, would someone please NOT tell me about it.

    My previous congregation's 'motto' is, "Giving Hope - Changing Lives" - Highland is giving me a great sense of continuity in purpose, rather than one of having left one 'type' of congregation for a totally different one. I feel a connection of purpose that has not always been the case when I've moved from one city to another, one congregation to another. Praise Him! I'm so grateful for the Godly guidance of two wonderful groups of Elders, half way across the continent from each other. Talk about unity in Christ!! And these two congregations don't even know about each other. Wow!

    By Blogger Kathy, at 10/07/2004 06:13:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    It sounds like the elders at Higland know who's in charge! Under-shepherding is the most powerful leadership model --- period! Praise God!

    "Street walkers for Jesus" -- AMEN! (:

    By Blogger David Michael, at 10/07/2004 07:03:00 AM  

  • Our shepherds have a similar unity-I am sorry that our preacher likes to make a joke of loooong elders meetings instead of the afirmation you have given--this kind of affrmation of the church leaders is an encouragement to us all. On another note, do you think part of the reason you are becoming a more missional church is because you have already dealt with issues of non-acceptance within your own walls(e.g. women's issues)? Just a thought. Victoria

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/07/2004 07:07:00 AM  

  • YES! Praise the Lord! I love those guys!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/07/2004 08:50:00 AM  

  • Hallelujah! What a gift that ministry is to Abilene and that community!

    By Blogger Brandon Scott, at 10/07/2004 08:50:00 AM  

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    By Blogger Matt, at 10/07/2004 09:41:00 AM  

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    By Blogger Matt, at 10/07/2004 09:42:00 AM  

  • Mike-

    Wow, did you just say a lot! The "scandal" of women’s public involvement in worship at Highland pales in comparison to what is on its way.

    I love the evolving look of Oasis: people from the neighborhood and from all over Abilene - some of whom don't get too many warm meals and some of whom don't look too much like your typical "church goer" - are coming and eating with us. Sitting at the same tables. Sharing the same food.

    My hope is that the BIG scandals at Highland will increasingly mirror the scandals that followed Jesus for much of his life. "Look at who is eating with him!" "He believes THAT person is forgiven?" "Does SHE deserve a place among his disciples? Look at what she’s done!"

    By Blogger Matt, at 10/07/2004 09:43:00 AM  

  • You're so, right, Matt. Bring on the scandal! Steve Hare tells about looking out over our parking lot and seeing people walk, wheel (wheelchair), and run to come to a meal. "When you give a dinner, do not invite your firends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich nieghbors . . . But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed." I wonder if he meant it. One blessing of this diversity is that it reminds us that we are all poor, crippled, and needy . . . and we all are loved by God . . . and we all have both gifts and passions to bring to the mission . . . and we all have a place at the table.

    By Blogger Mike, at 10/07/2004 11:15:00 AM  

  • This is such GOOD NEWS. Walking the neighborhood, what an idea. Feeding people on Wed PM, what an idea. "Lord, how can we feed such a group? It would take too much money." "YOU give them something to eat!"

    This sounds like the LORD'S supper to me. I never understood the closed communion thing anyway. Couldn't picture a first century meal where the believers said, OK, now we come to the bread and cup part that is just for us Christians. You, guest, you need to hold back on this part."

    Rather, aren't we to welcome sinners to eat with us as did Jesus?

    By Blogger mchristophoros, at 10/07/2004 11:20:00 AM  

  • This is encouraging stuff, where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, on the walkers. I have seen a similar phenomenon at Downtown Church here in Searcy. A house was donated by one of the elders, and turned into a free clinic staffed by numberous local doctors, nurses, pharmacists and greeters on Sunday afternoons. Clients must be without medical insurance to use the service, and the lines are now so long that they can't handle it all some days. Meds are donated by drug reps and pharmacies, and the volunteers are not only from Downtown, but from churches all over, of all stripes. Some financial support and volunteers are from First Baptist, the Methodist church and several CoC's in town, and it is truly "God's work". This is SO encouraging to see, rather than navel gazing and turning inside the walls--just like your post a few weeks ago regarding the missional church.

    Good on 'ya, as they say in New Zealand. Keep it up!!

    don

    By Blogger don, at 10/07/2004 01:49:00 PM  

  • I just re-read my post, and I don't know what "numberous" means, so please delete that word.

    Also, if you want a good chuckle, check out Greg Kendall-Ball's blog (and all the comments) at http://kendallball.blogspot.com/2004/10/to-clap-or-not-to-clap.html#comments

    don

    By Blogger don, at 10/07/2004 02:04:00 PM  

  • (Mike, standing in the middle of a circle of admirers of his mad pulpit minister skilz. He is pointing wildly at someone else in the church building...)

    "Don't look at me, I'm a sheep just like you. Hey! Look over there! Check out what my brother and/or sister is doing to expand the borders of the kingdom..."

    After reading your post, here are some things that humble and encourage me:

    1. Our university students, for running with reckless abandon past the limits of what most people consider a comfort zone. All for the sake of the Lord who ran to meet them.

    2. My shepherds, who CONSTANTLY amaze me with their humility. I have never seen a more selfless and prayerful group of men, who could conceivably be on the biggest power trip going. They're elders at Highland, for Pete's sake!

    3. You, for noticing and bringing it to our attention.

    Good times, brother. Thanks for sharing.

    By Blogger Jo, at 10/07/2004 03:11:00 PM  

  • Glad to know the elders are doing so well since they all resigned and let their wives run the show last Spring:)

    (Toungue in cheek >>this was one of many Highland rumors floating through Arkansas earlier this year.)

    By Blogger SG, at 10/08/2004 07:21:00 AM  

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    By Blogger Jeff, at 10/08/2004 12:42:00 PM  

  • Mike --

    At Zoe LTTH, David Wray mentioned that some of your elders are involved in conducting ElderLink(?). Is it ever held on the West Coast?

    I am so very impressed and encouraged with the hearts of these men who are your shepherds. My wife and I stayed with one in August when we dropped off our son at ACU. He shared with me that 80% of the time in these meetings are spent in prayer -- over people, the church, the community, ministry staff, missionaries, et al. God give us more such leaders whose hearts are for their communities and people and the inbreaking kingdom of God!

    By Blogger Owen B., at 10/08/2004 12:50:00 PM  

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