We walk together amidst the siftings

This is a difficult blog post.  It is about an Exponential conference on April 23-26 of nearly 5,000 church planters who looked deeply into their hearts and considered how they were being “sifted.”  That was the topic of the conference – “Sifted.”  Why “Sifted”?  It comes from Jesus’ words of warning to Peter in Luke 22:31-32:  “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”  During the conference, church planter after church planter testified about their sifting by Satan–by lust and pride and tarnished by discouragement, frequently leading to sexual immorality.   Tod provided us a good overview of this conference in his blog Sifted:Powerful Theme, Powerful Conference.

In response to attending Exponential Jackie Rizo, church planter with her husband Sergio in Reunion Christian Community in Nashville, wrote a blog about their marital difficulties.  The blog, entitled “Intimate Foes or Intimate Allies,” describes their personal marital struggles while they were missionaries in Mexico.  Soon after posting the blog, Jackie emailed Becky Van Rheenen asking for prayers.  A portion of the email is used with her permission:

I’d like to ask for your prayers.  Last night, I wrote a blog post about the time when our marriage almost fell apart.  I didn’t post it until this afternoon and in just 20 minutes my inbox is flooded with personal stories from dear friends and then from another whom I’ve not spoken to in 10 years.  I ask for prayers of wisdom and the ability to stand alongside of each of them while they fight for their marriages.  My heart is deeply saddened by the “sifting” that each of them are going through or have gone through.  Thanks for always listening to me!

You can read and respond to Jackie’s blog at http://www.livingaredeemedlife.blogspot.com/2012/05/intimate-foesorintimate-allies.html.  I am thankful for Jackie and Sergio’s transparency and leadership in the kingdom. Their journey is beneficial to us.  If you are being sifted by Satan, are overwhelmed and finding it difficult to cope, would you contact Becky, Tod, or me?  We want to walk with you, pray with you, struggle with you . . . and help you become the man or woman that God desires.  We want you to know that we are praying for you that your faith will not fail but that you will turn and strengthen God’s people (paraphrased from Luke 22:32).

Wayne Cordeiro’s book “Sifted” (written with Francis Chan and Larry Osborne) was written specially for this conference.

The Exponential Conference next year will once again be in Orlando, Florida.  The dates are April 22-25.  Until May 18 you can register both yourself and your spouse for the conference for only $99.  Put “Mission Alive” as your organization while registering.  We will rent a house or apartments for all of us to stay in one place and also invite others to join us during the evenings.  The topic, as illustrated, is DiscipleShift.  Todd Wilson, who organizes the conference, will provide us a forum next year to speak in either classes or during a pre-conference intensive.  He says, “Mission Alive has much to say about this topic.”

We invite you to join us for next year’s conference.  Register this week to get the special price.  We will work on housing and keep you updated.

For the sake of His kingdom,

 Gailyn

Sifted: Powerful Theme, Powerful Conference

Last week the Mission Alive staff attended the Exponential Conference, the largest gathering of church planters in the world.  Every April over 5000 church planters gather in Orlando, Florida, to think, pray, worship, learn and grow.  If you are a church planter or church planting ministry like Mission Alive, it is THE place to be.

This year the conference theme was “Sifted,” taken from Jesus’ words of warning to the apostle Peter in Luke 22:31-32:

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

In each session speakers and couples took the stage to testify how Satan had sifted them.  They spoke with surprising honesty and vulnerability, something not usually seen at conferences like these.  Some confessed to pornography, others to adultery, others to ignoring their families while they poured all their time and effort into their ministry.  Darrin Patrick, church planter of The Journey church in St. Louis challenged church planters not to walk away from their calling at the first significant challenge.  He said, “If we are going to talk about [our] calling, we are going to have to talk about faith.”

Each speaker exhorted the audience to have courage, perseverance, integrity, deep dependence upon God, obedience, and much hope.

The final session focused on healthy rhythms and boundaries for church planters and their families.  Dave Ferguson interviewed Bill Hybels, his wife and two adult children about how they maintained a healthy family as they ministered.  Amidst his many wise thoughts Hybels said, “In ministry you’re going to disappoint someone.  Try not to make it your kids.”  Great advice for every Christian trying to live by faith and raise a family in the midst of such busy lives!

Most church planters and church leaders understand the importance of personal development, soul care and family care, yet these are often lost in the frenetic activity of church leadership which results in a life and family unprepared for the inevitable sifting.

Jesus’ words of warning to Peter echo far and wide throughout Christian history.  Satan has indeed sifted many missionaries, church planters, ministers and preachers.  Today we can be sure that he is preparing to sift a new generation of Christ’s servants.

Join us in praying for God’s blessing and protection on Mission Alive church planters on the front line of the Kingdom of God.  If you would like to join our Prayer Team and receive weekly prayer updates, contact Holly at holly@missionalive.org to be added to the prayer list.

Tod Vogt

Mission Alive-Director of Equipping