From the Superintendent

By Greg Yee, Superintendent, PacNWC

As we begin a new Christian Year with the first week of Advent this Sunday, I find myself reflecting on the beautiful and theologically vital passage Philippians 2:5-8.  As we enter this time of the year when we remember in anticipation the coming of our Savior, we are given this description of Jesus knowing his place of power and privilege.  Even though he had this, deserved it, it was not his focus to maintain it.  Rather, he let go of his control and position and took on human flesh.  He did this to make things right so that all could flourish and have new life.  In the beginning of this passage it says, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”  How is your mindset?  I’m feeling this deeply as we just came off our 10th Journey to Mosaic.  How do I understand my racial privilege and power and what must I do to have Christ’s heart-set when it comes to learning and responding to race realities?  I’m feeling this deeply as we are confronted with the shocking and steady flow of names coming forward around sexual assault/harassment.  How do I understand how misogynistic our culture and subcultures are and how do I have the focus and attitude of Christ as a male? I once read this quote, “One of the privileges of the great is to witness catastrophes from a terrace.”  I believe there is much for each of us to consider as we, even today, expectantly wait for Jesus’ coming.  May we have the mindset of the Prince of Peace and not sit on our terraces, but enter our worlds full of catastrophes.  We are people of contentment & restlessness, peace & frustration, and love & anger.  May you begin Advent with the mindset of the Prince of Peace & our Conquering King.  Come, o come, Emmanuel…

Reflections on Journey to Mosaic

By Matt Dyment

Three weeks ago, I had a few dreams come true. Ever since seminary, and participating in the Sankofa experience, I have longed to take a similar journey with fellow Christians from a mosaic of races and ethnicities. Alongside this dream I continually strive to take students on transformational adventures – adventures where what is happening right in front of them is so good, so beautiful they forget about their phones, studies, and the urgent demands of life and open their eyes to the Kingdom of God space they live within.

J2M brought these dreams together. I joined four undergraduate students from George Fox University for the four-day, non-stop, you-better-learn-to-drink-while-standing-under-a-raging-waterfall journey.  It was filled with deep conversations connected with a partner from another race/ethnicity while taking in documentaries and movies while we drive to meaningful, painful, and hopeful places.  The dialogue of justice is constant and the pursuit of racial reconciliation isn’t an add on but on center stage.

J2M doesn’t offer easy answers, and it doesn’t give the opportunity to walk away from the table. Thanks to our leaders and the grace of God, while around this table of truth and pain, personal stories were shared in ways bringing freedom. One of the female Hispanic students from Fox pulled me aside after the last night and said, “That was the first time I knew I could share my whole story, my whole opinion and not have to worry I was going to be judged. It was so wonderful. I knew sharing my story would only bring me closer to those on the trip. My story usually creates distance from others when I tell it.”

Personally, J2M deepened my heart for the work of justice in our local community, state, country, and world. It is hard, exhausting and long work, but it is where we are called to be in our time of history. We from Fox are so thankful to have been able to join J2M on it’s 10th anniversary. I am so thankful to be part of a regional conference in the ECC which prioritizes the work of racial reconciliation and continued learning. Don’t wait to sign up for the next trip if you are interested. Get your name on the list now!

Will There Be Churches?

By Peter Sung, Director of Church Planting, PacNWC/Lead Pastor, Evergreen Covenant Church

Before we immigrated when I was eight, growing up in South Korea meant immersion in the way of life that was the Presbyterian church, and that meant conforming to fit in. Now I can see that for what much of it was: bad theology, default culture, and really, just human nature.

1981 was the start of a new life in America but the continuation of the same social and spiritual environment: put on the mask and fit in. But a new imperative showed up in the immigrant church: Be good and succeed. This too was human nature coursing through the veins of bad theology and an even more oppressive cultural mandate. Stiff burgundy and white envelopes with names and dollar amounts were read out loud each week in each of the three Sunday services. These unashamedly public tithes and offerings were the perfect emblem that proved goodness and success.

Repulsed, and feeling spiritually and culturally homeless, I decided 11th grade was old enough to leave the nest and go find… something different. With vague ideals and words like acceptance (not performance), belonging (not fitting in), grace (not merit), and true community (not masked ones) swirling around my head, I went off in search of a better land and began my second immigration journey, this time a chosen one.

I found an inner city church with a white pastor, a woman worship leader, and a congregation that was culturally mixed. I had few categories but I felt like I was getting closer to home and a seed was planted. In college, I didn’t just join InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, but I deliberately rejected many others that I felt were gathering for reasons other than the Gospel. Inspired by a sense of mission to propagate a new kind of church, I abandoned my mother’s call on my life to become a medical doctor, switched my major, and applied to seminary. With my acceptance letter to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in hand, one week after graduation from college, I planted my first church. Then a second. Then a third. Then a fourth. Then a fifth. Then I met the Covenant, fell in love and joined, and the 90’s were over.

This whole time, underneath the surface, the cultural ground was shifting and presumptions were being challenged. The internet, and the technology to access it, began to fill the earth just like the waters cover the sea. Postmodernity became less of a talking point and less threatening to the church relative to the opt-in culture that was the child of individualism, consumerism, and technology. How people related to information, to authority, to people, places, and things – shifted. Coming to church, committing to church, church being a serious contender in culture and in calendars – shifted.

Lots of fails. Lots of studies. Lots of books. Lots of consulting groups later, we’re beginning to see the church doing what it has always done – adapt, and eventually thrive, again. But many churches and leaders are getting lost in the shuffle. It’s all just happening so fast and furiously. At times like this, we are able to appreciate the difference between resilient and strong. Strong is like the pyramids – powerful but now, mostly gone. Resilient is like a forest – easily destroyed but able to spring back to life. Resilient endures, adapts, and finds a way to thrive again. Strong cracks, wears down, and goes away.

Beginning with my own spiritual journey, then church planting, then directing church planting, and now engaged in the work of church turnaround, my respect for the church has been growing again, not because it’s perfect or strong but because it’s resilient. It’s resilient because it’s alive. Buildings and programs and strategies and cultures – these all have their place in life but are not life. The end purpose is life and life will find a way as God guides his Church through time and space.

If I stop anchoring in the past and show up here and now with Christ’s Gospel in heart and hand, the opportunities to engage the present day, as it is and not as I think it should be, abound. Is today’s missional challenge for you? No, the gates of hades will not prevail against the Body of Christ.

This is my sense of call as I continue the work of church turnaround locally and partner with the Conference more broadly: to competently engage culture and society with light and salt, sweat and tears, and the enduring blood of Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit who is moving in our world more than we can think or imagine.

Let’s end with a benediction for all of us, for all generations before and yet to come:

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Thunder was Awesome

By Pete Anderson, Associate Pastor for Youth, Crossroads Community Covenant Church

Thunder 2017 this year was Awesome! We hit the ground running with the adventure of a lifetime. As lighting flashed on a mountain graphic on the screens, Thun-Der was being shouted by 460 Middle school students, and then Indiana Jones repelled from the ceiling. Thunder Retreat 2017 has begun! From worship, to food, to conversations and games this weekend was characterized by the word Awesome… Let me tell you a little more of what I mean!

Awesome Youth Pastors, Volunteers, and Cascades staff and volunteers:

For starters, we had an awesome set of Youth Pastors and Volunteers from across the PNW that sacrificed their time, energy, and sleep, to spend a weekend at Cascades. This retreat isn’t possible without these amazing leaders. I thank God for their commitment, their service, their love for students! We have an amazing set of leaders and volunteers! For real, wherever you are at in the PNW take some time to thank, encourage, support, give a Starbucks gift card to the Youth Pastors and Volunteers that run your student ministries! They are in the trenches and are doing a fantastic job! Speaking of …other people who made this retreat amazing… Jessica Palmer (Cascades Program Director) and the amazing Cascades staff and volunteers! They do an amazing job at helping make this retreat possible. I love the partnership, the comraderie, and support that we have in Cascades. It’s truly a blessing to have such an amazing camp, staff, and retreat to go to each and every year!

Awesome Retreat Speaker: Erik Anderson

Speaking of awesome… Our retreat Speaker was great. Erik Anderson, the outreach pastor at Crossroads Church (Woodbury, MN). He challenged our students into living an extraordinary life for Jesus; being misfits for the Messiah. Our life with Jesus is anything but ordinary. His messages were on point biblically, they were on fleek culturally, and they spoke to the hearts, minds, and lives of our Middle School students. He covered Samson and challenged our students to see that it’s easy to get distracted and pulled away from the extraordinary life God has for us. He looked at David and encouraged students to realize that God’s “Hesed” his love that pursues us, can help us through the pain, hurt, and sin that can make us feel less than extraordinary. He pointed out that the Good Samaritan stood up and did something extraordinary when the rest of the world just walked on by. And lastly, He sent us back into our church vans with this charge: As you go home remember you can play a part in a miracle. God has an extraordinary plan for your life. Go home and be misfits for the messiah. Mark 2 tells us the story of 4 friends who did whatever it took to get their friend to Jesus. We too, can play part in a miracle. There were many students who shared with their Youth Pastors of important faith decisions they made during the weekend; we praise God for how He worked and the faithful service or Erik bringing the good news!

So the questions from this retreat  that we are left with are these: Are we living as misfits for the messiah? Will you step up and play a part in a miracle? Are you living an ordinary or extraordinary life for Jesus?  What distractions are getting in our way from living extraordinary lives? What are you going to do about those distractions? Who is it that needs a little love, needs someone to stand up and live extraordinary on their behalf?

Awesome Worship: Crossroads Worship Team (Yelm, WA)

We had a great time of worship led by the Crossroads Worship team. This team was comprised of Debbie MacNealy with keys and vocals, supported by guitarist Pat MacNealy, Bassist Drex Zimmerman, and Drummer extraordinaire Vern Schick! I’ve truly got to tell you, there’s nothing better than worshipping with 400+ MS students!!! You know that scripture “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom…” Well, that rang true during worship at Thunder. The kids felt that freedom from the Lord’s presence and what followed was an amazing expression of praise… I’m talking about spontaneous conga lines, Piggy backs, Students swaying back and forth with their arms on each other’s shoulders, made up motions to the worship songs, Smiles, laughter, high fives, and the need to take a seat on the side because worship was so exhausting!!! How great to have a time to get into the wilderness with 460 middle school students and praise Jesus in freedom!

Awesome Weekend:

Cascades camp is an amazing place and we are so thankful to have a place to retreat and worship Jesus! Over the weekend we explored the 1,000 acres while playing big games, dueling our friends in the GaGa Pit, competing in extreme spoons, dodging paintballs in the paintball arena, making arts and crafts, off roadin’ in the Rubicon, having an adventurous time riding horseback through the forest in the rain, getting muddy, playing hours of 9 square in the air, probably eating too much candy, feeling the breeze as we zipped on the zipline, conquering fears scaling the climbing tower, holding reptiles like a Python and lizard, getting selfies with an alligator on your head, and much, much, more… What an awesome weekend that was! Thank you once again to everyone who helped plan, pray, give scholarships, and support the Thunder Retreat! We’ll see you next year!

Awesome Planning Team:

As I close this letter I want to give a big shout out to the great Retreat Planning team for the 2017 Retreat. Behind the scenes planning is often unrecognized and I want to make sure these folks know that I appreciate their hard work, their prayers, months of prepping and planning, and their partnership in ministry. As the retreat coordinator I couldn’t have pulled Thunder 2017 without this planning team: Kara Harris (Faint Covenant), Jessica Palmer (Cascades Camp), Erik Cave (PacNWC), Tim Anderson (Cascade Covenant), Brianne Losacco (Shoreline Covenant) and Micah Holmes (Countryside Covenant).