Renew! is a publication to keep all of us informed about the renewal process at West Leonard Church. Here is our our third issue, published November 8, 2015
Renewal Lab #6 at Calvin Seminary – October 17, 2015
Have you ever heard a “rock song” modified with Christian lyrics? The one that comes to mind is “I’m a Believer” by the Monkees. The modified lyrics by a worship team went, “Then I saw His face, now I’m a believer. Not a trace of doubt in my mind. I’m in love, whoa, I’m a believer, I couldn’t leave Him if I tried.” It kind of works, right? The worship time at our Renewal Lab meetings at Calvin Seminary are always very inspiring. At this past meeting on October 17, a seminary student named Josh from Red Deer, Alberta, led our worship. One of the songs he used was a reconfiguration of the British rock band Cold Play’s song “Fix You.” Much of the verses to the song were the same: “When you try your best but you don’t succeed . . . when you get what you want but not what you need . . . when you feel so tired but you can’t sleep . . . when you lose what you love . . . But then he changed the chorus to: “He gave His life to fix you . . . He lived and died to fix you . . . He can guide you home and ignite your bones. . .” Wow!
In addition to inviting great worship leaders at each Lab, the Renewal staff also invites well-qualified speakers to speak at each Lab. At our June meeting, we heard a message from Jul Medenblik, president of Calvin Seminary, entitled, “Are You Ready?” from Acts 6. The message compared the problems the early church faced with the dangers the church faces today, especially focusing on the danger of becoming inward rather than outward focused. At our October session, Rev. Lew Vander Meer was our speaker. He was introduced as a person who has “missional in his DNA.” Rev. Vander Meer is the former pastor of Sunshine Church, current pastor of New Community, and is familiar to many as a Christian high school Bible teacher. Lew’s message was centered on the church belonging to the Holy Spirit and that the Spirit and the Word gather the church through grace and power— grace by creating a community of caring and power by both the centrality of the preaching of the Word and by empowering people with certain gifts to use those gifts with passion in the church.
Our “keynote speaker” for the day was Rev. Larry Doornbos, pastor of Evergreen CRC in Hudsonville, Michigan. Since the theme of this particular lab was “Bless,” Larry talked about churches being involved in standing up against injustice, being generous people, and living lives that flow outward as passionate followers of Jesus. He cited the Old Testament stores of Esther, Jonah and Daniel and expressed how the church can be a tool of the Kingdom for the welfare of the community. Another challenge he presented was how each of us can express generosity in our work and bring healing in the way we approach our jobs.
Then, of course, each of us on the Renewal Team attended coaching sessions in our various focus areas. Here are our individual reports.
- Sue Lettinga for the Renewal Team
Pastor, Elder, Core Leaders
The Pastor, Elder and Core Leader Emphasis group at our Saturday Lab focused on a number of different areas. We learned about the traditional model of church leadership, which is primarily pastor centrific. A more Biblical model of leadership is a church that equips all members for service and focuses on using gifts and abilities to get things done. It was interesting to hear that the U.S. Army put out a handbook on how to sabotage getting things done. What was even more interesting was to hear how the church sometimes does something similar, and the result is the same, things don’t get done. We were encouraged to be a church of generosity and to be a resource to our neighborhood. More and more churches are moving from a traditional, rather closed off group of members to more of a parish church, which opens up our facility, programs, and services to others outside the church. Our group ended being reminded that leaders must use trust, compassion, stability, hope, and the power of the Holy Spirit to allow churches and those inside and outside the church to flourish. - Bob Hengeveld and Jack Roedema
As I listened to other churches and what they have going for adult discipleship, I was really pleased with how many opportunities we already have for adult discipleship at West Leonard. Some of those opportunities are Women's Coffee Break, Men's Bible Study on Wednesday, Care Circles, the class we just had on the Heidelberg Catechism, and the book study which will resume in the near future. The piece we are missing it seems to me is what do we have for the "baby" Christian who needs one-on-one mentorship? I plan on working on this as we continue with the Renewal Lab. If you have any ideas let me know! - John Bouwman
Our worship time at the Seminary Chapel is a beautiful picture of the body of Christ. Everyone involved with Renewal Lab from the 10 Churches which began in June, 2014 and those just beginning were there to be welcomed and to praise our God. This time of worship always prepares us for the day ahead. TO GOD BE THE GLORY by Andre Crouch was our doxology before we were dismissed to our individual coaching sessions.
Pastor Doug Kamstra and teams from the other 9 churches meet in the Prayer Room behind the chapel. Doug leads us in prayer before we share with one another updates on our individual churches. We share our joys, our frustrations and any new ideas that we hope to implement within the next few months. It is such a blessing to be encouraged by one another, to walk along side with one another, to pray for one another. Before we leave, Doug always gives us a helpful resource to read with an emphasis on prayer. We come away from this gathering recharged. Our prayer is that the Holy Spirit will breathe new life into each one of us at West Leonard, giving us a joy and a passion for building the kingdom. Let us continue to sing: “Set your church on fire, Win this nation back, change the atmosphere, build your kingdom here, WE PRAY!” - Marla Roedema and Mary Polonowski
October 17 marked another great gathering with those who are quickly becoming friends and colleagues to us. We are led each time by Carol Hochhalter, a talented worship leader, musician and instructor at Cornerstone. She shared again with us the four fold pattern of worship both in the Old Testament and the New, sharing what Reformed worship is designed to be (a dialogue with God) and how as Christians living in the new covenant (with Jesus as our sacrifice) our worship should be formed. Her knowledge is inspiring, but the fact that it is paired with a true passion for God and for worshipping Him is contagious (if you’re interested in the details of the four fold pattern of worship, ask one of us and we’ll be happy to give you a copy). In a society that can sometimes be quite casual about worship, these reminders of its holiness and the need for it to contain a true awe of our God is heartening.
Our meetings begin by us going around the room (there are usually 10-12 of us) and sharing the things happening in our individual congregations, both joys and sorrows. These range from joys like “we’ve started a song of the month in our congregation” or “we’ve gotten people who’ve not led worship in the past to read a prayer and a scripture” or “people in our congregation seem to really be catching the vision” to sorrows like “we’re having some challenges working with our congregation on some new things” or “we don’t seem to be making a lot of progress in this area” or “we just don’t know how to get our congregation to invest in the renewal process”. Each situation is shared in truth and in love, with the goal of encouraging and supporting one another in the work of renewal.
We’ve said this before, but the best part of these gatherings isn’t talking logistics or practical applications, though they are very helpful, and the new ideas generated are exciting. The best part is the support of brothers and sisters who love our Lord and care about bringing him their first fruits in worship, for the building up of the congregations but ultimately for God’s glory. We hope it is encouraging to you “by remote J” that there are brothers and sisters in Christ all over the area who are working hard at renewal and are working hard at trusting God to lead them. In His name, Laurie Hinken, Amy Vander Slik
As we enter the “doing” phase of our Renewal Lab, the deacon team spent some time sharing church outreach ideas and discussing the success of reaching people for Christ. We all agreed that our churches are great at organizing events and getting the job done. But we shouldn’t forget the main focus – WHY we are doing these things. We can do everything from collecting and counting money to helping with Neighborhood Work Days and Vacation Bible School -- and our (mostly Dutch) work ethic will “get ‘r done” in fine fashion! These events can be tremendously blessed by God, especially when we remember that the reason we do these things is to show the love of Jesus to those we serve. HOW? Start conversations, make connections, and form relationships. Deacons are in place to serve God’s people – not to fix, or even to help – but to serve! We are learning a lot and we are encouraging each other in this process. - Sue Vander Meer
As a group, we have been discussing how to get people involved in a church and how to be more hospitable. Some ideas are signs around church to direct people, watching for new people and extending a hand to them. We need to be more deliberate in that area. We love our comfortable areas, but Christ told us to be Him for people, and that sometimes means going outside our boxes to meet new people and strike up conversations and encourage them to join us for coffee. Remember that sometimes that is all that it takes to get someone interested to come to Jesus. We are His hands and feet. - Betty Bouwman and Carol Anne Keyes
Rev. John Roozeboom led this coaching session. Although not perhaps quite as “lively” as previous sessions, we had the opportunity to share with each other what had been going on in our churches in the area of outreach and were challenged to continue to put forth SMART goals.
We also broke up into smaller groups of three. I spoke with representatives from Palos Heights and First Hudsonville. We talked about the importance of churches understanding the needs of the community and becoming involved and serving in the “non-church community.” One person said that part of his church’s outreach team is someone who is not a church member but who is very active in the community as a whole. It made me wonder about our church becoming involved with West Grand Neighborhood Association or the West Leonard Businesspersons Association. I noted that area pastors, our pastor included, were invited recently to a coffee with Grand Rapids Police officers. Another topic we talked about was to become more intentionally involved with missionaries. Lastly, one of the people in our group talked about how he had moved the church’s sign to be more visible to people driving past. Naturally, that discussion turned into our church looking for a new sign and how that could be used effectively as an outreach tool. – Sue Lettinga, Julie Vander Slik
The Last Hour
Again at the last hour of the Lab, we were blessed to have a private space for our church team to process what we had heard and learned throughout the course of the day, and then – most important – we prayed together. Please join us in that. Please continue to pray for the Renewal Team but also for renewal for everyone in our congregation and community.
What We’re Reading
At every Renewal Lab, participants are given a book to read, and so far we have read some pretty thought-provoking books. The book we were given at our October 17 session was Kingdom Come – Why we must give up our obsession with fixing the church and what we should do instead by Reggie McNeal, director of the Leadership Team of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. This book deals a lot with the essential importance of seeing the church as a tool of God’s Kingdom coming here on earth, and it fit very well with the “Bless” theme of Renewal Lab #6. It will give us a lot to think about in terms of how our church can be a force for the Kingdom here on the west side of Grand Rapids.
Renewal and the Olive Tree
As you probably have already noticed, the logo for the Renewal Lab is an olive tree. Why is the olive tree the symbol for the Renewal Lab? Olive trees still bear fruit in old age. Olive trees can also be cut to a stump and still create shoots of new growth. In addition, olives produce oil that represent the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Olive trees are often symbolic of God’s redemptive work among his people.
As our church continues on our journey of renewal with the Renewal Lab let us keep in our view the visual reminder of the olive tree as we work toward the goal of developing as an intentional missional congregation that makes more and better disciples who transform lives and communities for Christ. Please pray for the other churches involved in our Renewal Lab group as they work toward the same goal (Baldwin Street, Calvary Plainwell, First Hudsonville, Hope Grandville, Millbrook, New Era, Palos Heights Chicago, Second Grand Haven, and Spring Lake).
- Jack Roedema