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Multiply222 Takes its Cue From 2 Timothy 2:2: Entrusting Qualified Teachers to Disciple Others

Bob-New Bob Crow: “If you’re not passing it on, you’re missing the point.”The statistics reveal what's at stake. Up to 85 percent of churches in North America have plateaued or are in decline while about 23 percent of the nation's population say they are not affiliated with any religion, otherwise known as the "nones." This is sobering news, but instead of waving the white flag, the Multiply222 Network has a plan.

Correction: the Word of God has a plan that the ministry seeks to birth in others, says Bob Crow, Multiply222's chief development officer.

Behind the Closing Doors

Comstock Park Cong uccThe Comstock Park church before its closing last November.There are many factors involved in a church closing. Similar threads wind their way around the tales of those which find themselves coming to an end.

But each church has its own story.

So it is with Comstock Park Congregational-United Church of Christ on Lamoreaux Dr. NE, just up the hill a bit from West River Dr. The church closed its doors last November, the final chapter in a 110-year lifetime.

Paul Sommer, the church's historian, can fill you in on details. But the meandering story takes a while to tell.

Benckhuysen appointed director of CRC Safe Church Ministry

safechurchThe executive committee of the Council of Delegates voted unanimously to appoint Dr. Amanda Benckhuysen to the position of director of Safe Church Ministry for the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

Benckhuysen previously served as professor of Old Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary. She also taught at the University of Dubuque (Iowa) Theological Seminary and was a campus minister at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Coalition transforms former Purple East into warming center, overnight shelter

warmA coalition of community, nonprofit and business leaders has joined forces to provide safe emergency shelter for residents of the Heartside neighborhood who are experiencing homelessness.

An alliance led by Mel Trotter Ministries and Guiding Light, the city of Grand Rapids and Kris Elliott of Evergreen Companies, has leased space at 250 Ionia Ave. SW in downtown Grand Rapids to accommodate what experts are saying could be as many as 100 adults nightly seeking housing in the coming months.

Work has begun to transform the space, which is the former Purple East tobacco shop, into a warming center and overnight shelter for those experiencing homelessness, many of whom are currently staying in tents in Heartside Park and other locations around the city.

Back to Work program receives $20,000 grant

glmbackGuiding Light recently received for the third consecutive year a $20,000 grant from the SpartanNash Foundation that will help support the nonprofit's Back to Work program.

The SpartanNash Foundation has provided a total of $70,000 to the nonprofit since 2016. Back to Work provides a short-term stay for men who are experiencing homeless and seeking full-time employment, along with support for their job searches.

Love is the Way

loveBishop Michael Curry is an Episcopal Pastor from N. Carolina. His name may be familiar to you because he performed the wedding ceremony of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Since that time, he has spent his time preaching and writing. In his new book, Love is the Way: Holding on to the Hope in Troubling Times, he stresses the importance of relationships and community. He is culturally literate, and many of the people he refers in to his book are other writers. I would love to see his library.

Acton Institute: new walls being erected

actonConservative think tank the Acton Institute recently marked its 30th anniversary by reflecting on the significance of the Berlin Wall falling in 1989. These days, new walls are being erected due to the COVID-19 pandemic, wrote Acton president Rev. Robert A. Sirico in a letter to supporters.

"Thirty years hence, the most momentous thing seared into our memoires may well be the pandemic, not only in terms of the scores who have succumbed to the virus and the attendant misery and suffering of loved ones, but also the unintended consequences of political leaders in their actions and policies to combat it," wrote Sirico.

Terry's Picks January 2021

EVENTSThis is the column in which West Michigan Christian web writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-inspired arts/entertainment/enrichment events over the coming month. It looks like we're still going virtual......

Diversity In Culture and the Church

rex99Dr. Rex M. RogersDiversity and inclusiveness are mantras of the new religion of political correctness. Not that these values are necessarily bad or wrong in themselves. Diversity can be a good thing. So can inclusiveness, if you aren't tossing aside morality when you use the term.

Certainly, diversity is a watchword of our culture today. One's demography is now destiny. News stories of appointments to government offices lead with the gender, race or ethnicity, maybe sexual orientation of the appointee before they report the professional credentials and accomplishments that hopefully justify the appointment. Identity politics, as it's called, has become a part of the "acceptable narrative" of currently ascendant ideology.

Long before the present-day, actually some two thousand years ago, God ordained something called the church, understood in lower case as a local body of believers (and usually non-believers as well), and capitalized as, the Church, the trans-cultural, trans-country, trans-time Body of Christ, the universal Church, the Family of God.

Merry Christmas

christmassign2editedI don't know how many times over the last year I have heard someone say, "This has been a year like none other". We agree, and we are excited because there are opportunities to lead eyes upwards like never before.

The faces of many people show the discouragement, frustration, anger and the deep sense of questioning that is in their lives. This makes for good soil to sow seed into during these uncertain times.

Those We Lost in 2020

2020This is the time of year we see news-feature lists of celebrities and other notables who passed away during the last 12 months. We thought it might be appropriate to remember some Christian music artists and others who entered eternity during this year who might not have made those other lists.

*Dr. Rance Allen – The gospel music singer-songwriter was a founding pastor at a Toledo, OH church, yet had a decades-long recording and performing ministry. His first album with his Rance Allen group came in 1972.

One of his long time friends was Grand Rapids-native pastor/music artist Marvin Sapp. Upon learning of Allen's death, Sapp noted that Allen was present at many of Sapp's milestone moments. "From the Stellar Awards giving me an award for (Sapp's song) "Best in Me" to my Inaugural Bishop's Banquet (in Grand Rapids). Every year I came to your church just to celebrate you as bishop, pastor and (your) musically anointed gift." Allen died Oct. 31 at age 71.

Pastor: Need is Great to Bring Gospel to the Forefront of Native Americans

petersIn a recent talk sponsored by the Christian Reformed Church Office of Race Relations, Mike Peters, director of the local 4 Fires Ministries, said too many people remain unaware of the Native Americans who live in their communities.

"There is next to no knowledge of native life," said Peters, an ordained non-denominational Christian pastor. "The vast majority of Americans never think about Native American issues. Even today, there are several states that have history books that have no mention of Native American history."

Seminary President Celebrates 25th Ordination Anniversary

julCalvin Theological Seminary President Jul Medenblik recently marked his 25th anniversary of ordination into ministry. He was ordained at Orland Park Christian Reformed Church in Illinois which was the mother church for a new church plant just beginning in New Lenox, Ill.

Wedgwood Christian Services Receives $10,000 Grant

nbFor the second year in a row, Wedgwood Christian Services is the recipient of a $10,000 grant from the Perrigo Foundation. The grant will help fund Wedgwood's Transforming Services, which includes its Wellness and Activity Therapy, Employment Training, Prevention, Manasseh Project Outreach, and Chaplaincy and Young Life – which is voluntary. These services enable Wedgwood to offer holistic treatment, and help youth and families heal from the trauma of abuse & neglect, exploitation, and substance use.

2020 – A Year to Remember…. And Forget

cancelledWe saw this notice much too often during 2020The COVID-19 pandemic was the big deal during 2020. Its tentacles stretched over so much of our lives in ways we couldn't have realized early this year.

No one could list all the events, trips, concerts, gatherings, and other activities both indoors and outdoors which were affected.

Among the casualties were numerous faith-based artistic endeavors. Michigan's two major Christian music multi-day events - Unity Christian Music Festival in Muskegon and Big Ticket Festival in Gaylord - both were forced off the books until 2021.

More Than a Thank-you Call: How Guiding Light’s Donor Relations Team Supports its Community as the Pandemic Rages On

glm90In a time when the world is convulsing with one crisis after another, the team at Guiding Light is focusing on gratitude for those who support the nonprofit.

What starts as a simple thank-you call from the donor relations team often leads to a deeper conversation, especially during this time when so many are isolated. Donors, it turns out, appreciate the support and the ability to connect meaningfully.

As donor relations officers, Bob Evans, Brad Myers and Steve Pratt are continually engaging with those who give their time, money, resources or advocacy to help Guiding Light achieve its mission of partnering with individuals to fulfill their God-given potential.

Guiding Light’s The Job Post Relocates

job postThe Job Post, a full-service hiring firm and social enterprise of Guiding Light, has moved to a new office in Grand Rapids at 401 Hall St. SW, located in suite 425.

The new office offers easier and more convenient access to both job seekers and companies looking to hire them. Located just south of downtown Grand Rapids with access to US 131 and near I-196, the new office has ample free parking.

Good Samaritan Ministries Comes Alongside Homeless in Ottawa County. Pandemic Heightens Need for Housing

Cutline No. 111Good Samaritan Ministries executive director Drew Peirce: “We sort of swim upstream and help as many people as we can from becoming homeless.” The parable of the Good Samaritan implores people to grant mercy to the neighbors among us. More and more, those attempting to eke out a living in Ottawa County need this unprecedented compassion Jesus instructed His followers to accomplish.

Homelessness in Ottawa County has experienced an uptick due to the COVID-19 pandemic, making Holland-based Good Samaritan Ministries (GSM) all the more vital.

"We'll intake about 6,000 calls this year and help from 1,110 to 1,200 people through a combination of our programs," says Drew Peirce, executive director of GSM. "All of last year, we helped about 20 families that were at risk of becoming homeless. The last 12-13 weeks, we've helped about 230 families from becoming homeless, and that work continues to grow. We sort of swim upstream and help as many people as we can from becoming homeless."

Terry's Picks December 2020

EVENTSThis is the column in which West Michigan Christian News writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-inspired arts/entertainment/enrichment events over the coming month.

In the spirit of 2020, let's go virtual for December! Here are a few online possibilities:

New Film Confronts Challenges of Faith

Joel paul ReisigJoel Paul Reisig, director of “Faith Under Fire”The new film "Faith Under Fire" has already faced one unexpected roadblock.

The faith-based movie directed by Hope College alum Joel Paul Reisig was supposed to debut in theatres for a run on Thanksgiving weekend.

Then came the Nov. 17 pandemic-induced edict that closed film houses and similar venues for three consecutive weeks statewide.

"It's extremely disappointing," noted Reisig of the lost opportunity. "But it's an important movie. Please consider bringing it into your homes this season."

The film – shot entirely in southeast Michigan – stars veteran actors Kevin Sorbo and Dean Cain. But the main character is a firefighter portrayed by Detroit-born actor Nick Vlassospoulos. After losing his wife to cancer and then learning of his young daughter's carcinoma diagnosis, his life descends into hopelessness until a persistent pastor reaches out to help.

The Role of a Hospice Spiritual Caregiver: Putting Others Ahead of Self

vernbPastor Vern BaremanWhen Pastor Vern Bareman attends to his patients, he's not toting a blood pressure cuff or sporting a stethoscope about his neck.

Instead, he ministers mostly in a spiritual way, embracing the special role that a spiritual caregiver provides as part of the Emmanuel Hospice team.

Rather than leaning on a medical degree, Bareman and others like him rely on key qualities that spiritual caregivers bring to the table – what he says includes "compassion, empathy, a servant's heart, the ability to wrestle with life's biggest questions and the ability to listen."

A Hark Up Twist For a Virtual Christmas

Hark Up virtual logoIn this crazy, pandemic year of 2020, it actually makes sense.

In order to proceed with its annual Christmas music production, "Hark Up" is going virtual.

"We've been recording and filming over the last month and everything should be ready to go soon," said Hark Up executive director Chris Hansen.

"A Virtual Hark Up Christmas" will be a combination of studio and on-location video, with narration and even snippets from performances of past years.
It's set to debut at 7:30pm Sat. Dec. 5 .

The opening segment is new. It's a parody version of "You Can't Stop the Beat," borrowed from the musical "Hairspray." "It ends up as 'You can't stop Hark Up,'" Hansen noted of its "continuous shot" video style with dancers and singers.

Bellamy appointed CEO of Catholic Charities West Michigan

nbDavid Bellamy has been appointed CEO of Catholic Charities West Michigan.

"Catholic Charities West Michigan's mission is to offer hope and compassion through innovative, collaborative programs. Particularly now, individuals in our community need to know they are recognized as children of God worthy of dignity and respect," said David Walkowiak, bishop of the Grand Rapids Diocese. "I am confident that David is the right person to lead the organization in its important mission."

Local Pastors Stand With Healthcare Workers and Kent County Community

(GRAND RAPIDS, MI) - In response to catastrophic capacity shortages in hospitals and health systems across the state, local churches across Grand Rapids and Kent County will further limit in person gatherings beginning Wednesday, Nov. 18, to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Participating churches will discontinue large gatherings such as worship services, weddings, and meetings of more than five individuals until Dec. 8.

"Pastors have been moved by the pleas of front-line healthcare workers, as well as the ongoing suffering and loss of life of Kent County residents as a result of this virus," said Rev. Khary Bridgewater on behalf of the Kent County COVID-19 Church Task Force. "Our physicians and nurses are risking their lives, working double shifts, suffering through physical, mental, and emotional hardship to care for patients. We want to give them a fighting chance."

GEMS Adjust to Pandemic

gems5GEMS (Girls Everywhere Meeting the Savior) is adapting its ministry amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The nonprofit has created a resource called "GEMS on the Go." It's an activity box that counselors can bring to their girls, and includes a badge and a craft.

Wedgwood Named Best and Brightest in Wellness

wedgewoodWedgwood Christian Services has been named Best and Brightest in Wellness by Best and Brightest Programs. The 2020 winning companies were examined statistically for quantitative and qualitative data. Each survey was scored on a point system based upon criteria to benchmark and improve wellness program effectiveness. They include outcomes, analysis, tracking, participation & incentives, benefits and programs, leadership, employee input, culture and environment.

Wedgwood is recognized for efforts that promote a culture of wellness, such as providing a state-of-the-art wellness center that is available to all staff members and residential clients, and offering mental health services and support programs for employees. Through planning, implementation, and evaluation of efforts in employee wellness, Wedgwood is making the organization and the community a healthier place to live and work.

Singer-songwriter Reflects on Music and his West Michigan Roots

Renzema Chris portraitChris RenzemaIt was the right music for the right time.

The latest album from singer-songwriter Chris Renzema is titled "Let The Ground Rest." And its April release turned out to parallel the period of "rest" caused by the coronavirus.

"I wrote these songs mostly in 2019, and when (the album) finally came out I had no clue we would be in the year we've been in," said Renzema, 25, during a phone interview.

The theme of the title song is especially fitting. "The idea of waiting in the barren fields for the harvest has become more applicable than I ever thought," said the artist of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Dove Awards Spotlight Music and Message

For King and CountryJoel (left) and Luke Smallbone of For King & Country perform during the GMA Dove Awards telecast.The 51st annual Gospel Music Association (GMA) Dove Awards saw numerous Christian music artists perform and share some inspiring words in a virtual event based in the music industry's hub in Nashville, Tenn.

It was an unlikely scenario for an awards show, aired Oct. 30 on the Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN).

There were no live audiences, no large stages, no acceptance speeches and no single host. Rather, using a patchwork of pre-taped interviews and studio performances with multiple artists, the GMA took a cinematic approach centered on the theme "Carry the Change."

Terry's Picks November 2010

EVENTSThis is the column in which West Michigan Christian web writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-inspired arts/entertainment/enrichment events over the coming month.

Well friends, due to the pandemic, concert and other medium or larger-sized events have been few over the last seven months. And most of those have been virtual/online.

Calvin Seminary Pitches ‘Revival Tent’

calvin4One way Calvin Theological Seminary has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic is the Revival Tent, as it has come to be known. A large yellow and white tent, installed in the south parking lot of the seminary grounds, the tent was set up to add extra square footage to the building capacity and to provide a space where the seminary community could gather outdoors for large meetings.

Calvin’s 2021 January Series to Have Virtual Audience

janseriesNext year's Calvin University's January Series will have a completely virtual audience. Attendees will be able to watch the 15 daily noontime presentations on their own personal devices, in their own locations, or in small gatherings at remote sites available across the continent. Details on how to register for the presentations and where to find local remote sites will be available later this fall on the January Series website.

New Album A “Lifetime” Project for Tommee Profitt

The Birth of a King CD coverThe Birth of a King, produced by Tommee Profitt It all started 15 years ago during Tommee Profitt's student days at Grace Bible College.

"I arranged a Christmas song – I think it was for a class assignment – and I just loved what came out of it," said the songwriter/producer. "I think we did that song in chapel at Grace every year."

Now a further refinement of that song (a version of "Joy To The World") is part of his new 17-song Christmas album with guest vocals from artists all over the musical map.

The new project ("The Birth of A King") is as wide and diverse as Profitt's own career. He did all the musical arrangements and instrumentation.

"There are cinematic moments like (movie) trailer meets hip-hop," said Profitt from his Nashville area studio. "And there are other things that are just beautiful, timeless orchestral Christmas ballads."

He titles his newer "Joy" arrangement "Joy to the World 2 (He is Come)." It features vocals by Clark Beckham, the 2015 runner-up on "American Idol."

Grand Haven Church Tells “Scary” Bible Tales

Trinity Gwen DiermanChurch volunteer Gwen Bierman leads children in a story while pumpkin carving during “Tales From the Script(ure)”Can you imagine a spirit world encounter in which you communicate with the dead? Or watching aghast as a finger of a disembodied hand writes on a wall? And..... are you ready for a zombie experience?

All of these stories are found in the Bible and are told in a family-friendly October series at Trinity Reformed Church in Grand Haven.

You might call them "Tales From The Script(ure)."

The modest-sized church is in the midst of an ambitious outdoor, drive-in program stretching over every Saturday night of the month. Each evening features one of the "weirdest, oddest" and sometimes "scariest" of Biblical stories.

Mel Trotter Movie Includes Host of Memories for Local Actor. Film Premieres on World Homeless Day

Cutline No. 1-101Julian Newman: “I’m kind of a real time mentor that helps shape our main character to get him on the right track.” The movie Mel Trotter Ministries has released this month, "One Life at a Time" stars Dean Cain and Luke Schroder. The film also features local actors, including Julian Newman, 47, who lives with his family in Eastown.

The movie premieres on Oct. 10 — which is World Homeless Day —at Celebration Cinema's Studio Park. Digital copies are also available at www.meltrotter.org/movie
with any donation amount. An emailed copy with the viewing link will be sent in support of Mel Trotter Ministries.

The motion picture was produced by JCFilms and was filmed entirely in Grand Rapids over the summer.

Terry’s Picks for October 2020

EVENTSWest Michigan Christian News writer Terry DeBoer surveys the landscape for the area's faith-inspired arts/entertainment/enrichment events over the coming month.

As you likely anticipated, several events which I might have listed in this month's column were cancelled. Among them was the Cory Asbury evening of worship Oct. 29 at Cornerstone University.

Just think of all the events which would have been planned and staged this month, if only there hadn't been all of this uncertainty amidst COVID-19 restrictions. National concert tours just aren't up and running yet.

Area Ministers Offer Pastoral Advise Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Cutline No. 150Dr. Timothy Mark Harris: “It’s always been about the people and I think the pandemic has brought that in focus.”The COVID-19 pandemic has derailed life as we know it. Since the outbreak was first confirmed in Michigan six months ago, many have experienced a spiritual and emotional plunge. Juxtaposed between this virus is God's Word that's enabling congregations to face the coronavirus' headwinds, say area pastors.

West Michigan Christian News sought biblical insights from ministers of various denominations. While they freely acknowledge many questions remain unanswered, the pastors understand the times we live in and know what to do. Here is their timely counsel.

“Magnify” Brings A New Collaboration Effort

Wakeman ForrestForrest WakemanA song inspired by a church name change has further inspired a new West Michigan-based worship music collective.

It started with "Magnify," a worship song written by church music director Forrest Wakeman. The title was prompted by the new name chosen for his Blythefield Hills Baptist Church in Rockford. The composer negotiated the COVID-19 minefield in writing and recording the song while distanced from his fellow artists.

"When I wrote it we were in the middle of a lockdown and I couldn't get people into the studio together to record," recalled Wakeman, who is also on the Calvin University music faculty.

"So we all pulled together in a 'virtual' way – it was done in different home studios and by sharing audio files through the Internet."

WMCN News Briefs 9/21

nbDegage Ministries launches $1.3 million public fundraising campaign to expand services

Faith-based homeless support agency Degage Ministries recently launched a capital campaign on the grounds of their expanded property at the northwest corner of Sheldon Avenue and Cherry Street in downtown Grand Rapids.

Its goal is to receive $1.3 million in donations from the public as part of an overall $6.7m campaign to expand its facilities and increase its capabilities to serve more meals, provide more wellness activities and add more beds to its women and children shelter program.

“Mr. Hymn Sing” Remembered As A Faithful Encourager

Lehmann Maury hi rezMaury Lehman, a long time Christian music executive and for decades a song leader at numerous hymn sings throughout West Michigan, was memorialized in an evening service of remembrance Sept. 11 at Calvary Church in Grand Rapids. He died June 30 at age 96.

"We can remember together, we can smile together and we can sing together. And we're going to sing together a lot tonight," said Bruce Huseby, Calvary Church pastor of senior adults who officiated at the service.

Music of the faith was a lifelong pursuit of Lehmann, who for many years served as an executive and producer with Grand Rapids-based Zondervan Corp. In the company's musical heyday of the 1960s and 70s, it had a strong musical presence. Its music publishing arm was called Singspiration, and on the recording side was the Diadem record label. Diadem later became Milk & Honey, which produced the national debuts of several contemporary Christian music heritage artists such as Michael Card and Twila Paris.

The Declining Influence of Christianity On American Culture

rexsat7Dr. Rex M. RogersThe United States of America has been called a Christian nation.

While the accuracy of that designation has been frequently debated, there is no question the founding and history of the USA was influenced by biblical Christianity like no other nation on earth.

A Nation With the Soul of a Church

The USA was founded upon principles of liberty, many of them drawn from an understanding of Scripture. In time, the core values of the Founders: self-evident truths that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and then property and free enterprise, equality before the law, justice, moral responsibility, no established religion nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof, freedom of the press and peaceable assembly became the American creed.

Profile: Brian Elve

Brian Elve 1Serving as director of Guiding Light's Recovery program, Brian Elve has helped develop and hone an effective long-term program that helps men struggling with addiction learn a different way of life – and a new way of being in relationship with the world.

As an intensive drug and alcohol treatment program, Guiding Light Recovery is designed to give men structure and opportunity to engage in positive and transformative change. With an emphasis on spirituality, staff works with each individual to begin or renew men's journeys to lifelong abstinence and develop caring relationships with people who have traveled a similar path along the way.

Elve is one of those people. Like many of Guiding Light's team, he knows the differences between an effective program and the revolving-door nature of others because he's actually been there himself.

The Unique American Experience and Christianity

rexsat7Dr. Rex M. RogersAmerica has been called a Christian nation, though this description has been hotly debated.

America has been called “the first new nation ” by eminent sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset.

America has been called “The Great Experiment ” by no less than George Washington.

America has been said to be great because it is good, and that it would cease to be great if it ceased to be good .

This observation has been variously attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville and others, but whoever said it the phrase captures America’s sense of itself as the land of opportunity, the land of the free and the home of the brave, ideas rooted in the Judeo-Christian moral consensus that gave meaning and destiny to the American people their first two hundred years.

Terry’s Picks for September 2020

EVENTS2Wow. In this year of COVID-19, it's been months since I've been able to give any kind of a preview of upcoming events that are reasonably certain to happen. There have been concerts and other events from last spring that were rescheduled, but subsequently had to be either "re-postponed" or canceled outright.
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