Community Basics: Communication

by Element Christian Church
In an effort to better interact with the community in which I live in, I’ve started to compile a list of ways in which we can be in better communication with each other. I find often that different techniques have up-sides and down-sides, some aren’t quick enough, other people get left off lists inadvertently, and almost always no one has their feelings come through correctly. Here are some helpful ideas that might work for your community.

Email. A reliable, but not instant, way to communicate; another downfall is that emotion doesn’t carry over email and people tend to read their own emotion into communication rather than is actually meant. The challenge with email is, with so many different emails going, it can be hard to include everybody’s email address.  Some ways to help:
  • Create a contact group in your contacts with everyone in the group.
  • Create an email group using tools such as Google Groups. This handy tool can be set up to allow anybody in the group to email one address that blasts out and email to everybody else on the list. People can also unsubscribe themselves at any time. This email address would be something like “This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.”.
Texting. Group texts are great, there are limits to how many people can be in the group text at a time. It’s also hard for those without smartphones to participate. I highly recommend using an app/service called groupme.com. Within this texting app you can create multiple groups by simply adding phone numbers…AND they do not have to have a smartphone to participate as it works across all devices. You can send group texts, pictures, and create events; it also allows users to mute/silence conversations.

Facebook. Some Gospel Communities have a private Facebook group that works well. In this private forum they can share ideas, events, gatherings, prayer requests and as well as other matters everyone should be aware. Facebook groups are easy to add people and for people to remove themselves. The biggest challenge is for members who don’t use (or like to use) Facebook.

Contact list. If someone loves to make spreadsheets, their many times is nothing better. A spreadsheet can gather everyone’s information so it is easily shared; phone numbers, email addresses, birthdays and whatever other creative information everyone wants to share will be at your fingertips. Here is a sample you can fill in/disseminate to your community. Download template here.

Remember, there are up-sides and down-sides to all of these communication methods, but something is better than nothing. Most people seem to feel that we never have enough communication, so start now, because more communication is better than less.

5 Ways to Pray During Notes Night

by Michael Reed
The staff have conversations all of the time about Gospel Communities, one topic that comes up often is prayer. The conversations usually go something like this: “Prayer during notes night is taking up more and more time.” After some digging, I find that it is not actually prayer that is taking up a significant amount of time, but prayer requests. While working through the frustration I have found that the main complaint is that the same requests come up again and again. Everybody wants to share, but when it comes to prayer, only a much smaller percentage actually prays… to God.

Instead of seeing this as a negative, I believe it’s a great teaching/training opportunity. We need to be training the people in our lives about prayer. Below is a short list of ideas that will hopefully help you teach people how to pray.

  1. Modeling confession and repentance.The single most effect act you can do is model confession of sin and disbelief. Confession by itself is good, but not the whole picture; we must be the leaders of repentance. This entails confessing to both God and man and asking the Lord to help us turn away from sin.
     
  2. The “no prayer requests” prayer. I don’t really know what to call this, but the idea is that we are not going to take prayer requests in the group. Rather, we are going to open up the floor in prayer and encourage those with prayer requests/praises to talk directly to God about them. Some notes on this:
    • This does not mean that you can’t stop and ask more questions about someone’s prayer.
    • This doesn’t mean that you can have only one person pray for the request. There is much freedom in talking to God, and you can pray for someone else’s prayer after they have prayed for it.
    • Don’t be discouraged if there isn’t much participation early on; this can be very awkward at first and takes time for people to get into the habit.
    • Ask your group how they feel about praying to God out loud. For some, it’s an intimidating experience, we want to emphasize that our Gospel Communities are safe places to explore prayer without judgment.

      The goal throughout this approach is to spend the majority of our prayer time talking to God (vs. talking to each other) and encourage our members to go directly to God with their needs. 
       
  3. Dividing the group up. There are multiple ways to do this, but if your group is getting to be too large to all pray together every time, try breaking the group up into smaller groups to pray.
    • Have guys and girls split up for prayer. While you can do this anytime, it may be especially beneficial after a serious discussion (sin, sexuality, purity, etc.), or if you know that there is an issue going on that one would feel comfortable sharing only with members of the same sex. Both men and women can benefit from this time away from the opposite sex to share, but please do not let it be a complaining session about a spouse.
    • Another way to split the group for prayer would be half and half. This simple method forms two groups out of the larger.
    • Gather in groups of 3-4 where you already are, this breaks it up even further and allows people more time to share/pray.
       
  4. Praying in different times in weekly life. Spend time with others outside of Notes Night and prayer there. This isn’t to make every get together (like Superbowl Sunday) a spiritual prayer session, but this is where sharing a meal and getting to know other’s stories and struggles come into play. Encourage these kinds of meetings among the members of your group.
     
  5. Pray through a Common Prayer. Check out some liturgical prayers. Liturgy has been a staple of the church for a long time, but not something we do much today. Check out a book called “Common Prayer, A liturgy for ordinary radicals”… common prayers are community prayers that everyone participates in. I like what the book says in its introduction:

“Liturgy’s counterintuitive nature may feel a little culturally strange at first. It is weird enough in our culture just to get together to sing songs (unless you are going to a concert or playing Rock Band on the Wii). Singing and praying together can feel awkward, especially if it is not Thanksgiving or Christmas. But liturgy is meant to be an interruption. It disrupts our reality and refocuses it on God. It reshapes our perceptions and lives with new rhythms, new holy days, a whole new story.”

In what ways have you and your group prayed that you found beneficial and rewarding?
 

Unexpected Rest In An East Coast Blizzard

by Jennifer Whitaker


Life is busy.  For me, that busy life in Waldorf, Maryland looks like homeschooling three active girls, teaching a homeschool co-op class and Sunday School, hosting a life group, and serving at my church's food pantry and outreach events, all while keeping house and trying to be a godly wife and mother.  Back in November, I found myself looking forward to the Christmas holiday not so much for the spiritual celebration it should be, but for the break I thought it would afford me and my family.  Co-op and life group would be on break, we would take days off from school, and Jonathan would take several days off work.  My parents would come visit.  It would be a relaxing time of just enjoying life with family. 

Imagine my surprise when the Christmas holiday was anything but relaxing!  It was definitely sweet and full of fun memories we'll cherish, but making memories requires quite a bit of work.  I neglected my time in God's word because I was just "too busy."  Before I knew it, my not-so-relaxing holiday had come to an abrupt end and life was back in full swing.

 
That's when God showed His mighty hand.  He had a plan all along for me to find the rest I needed -- and it wasn't how I would have planned it.  He wanted me to find rest in Him and His word.  He sent a blizzard to give me the physical rest I craved, and He provided ample time for me to soak in His word and sweet time with my family.   
 
On January 22, as the snow began to fall and collect, I felt relief.  I knew all the events of the weekend -- and even our homeschool co-op day -- would be canceled.  I felt grateful to have a warm home, plenty of food, and good company to wait out the storm.  We snuggled down on the couch to play Super Mario Bros. and watch movies.  We fed the birds and watched them eat in the middle of the blizzard. We baked cookies and made snacks you'd usually see at a Super Bowl party.  When the snow finally stopped on Sunday morning, we ventured out to a world completely covered in two feet of snow.  We shoveled so much snow that I'm pretty sure it counted as a week's worth of workouts. We built a snow mountain and went sledding in our yard.  I didn't worry too much about the mess and got to just enjoy being with my family.  I finally felt the rest I had longed for in December.
 
Maybe God didn't send the blizzard just for me, but in this massive storm that crippled some of the East Coast's largest cities, I felt His love for me.  I knew He cared so much that He gave me rest.  In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus invites us to rest in Him. "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." I know this can't always mean taking a snow day vacation in the middle of a busy season of life, but it can be a daily rest.  Each day as I seek God in His word, He reveals His nature and His character in fresh ways.  He restores my soul (Ps. 23:2). He renews my mind (Rom. 12:2). And He gives my soul a rest from the busyness of life.
 
When you find yourself in a busy season of life, make time to rest in Jesus.  His mercies are new every morning, He is faithful (Lam. 3:23), and He will give you rest.

East Coast Blizzard Snow Day

by Jonathan Whitaker
Since Friday of last week the Whitakers have been on a bit of a sabbatical.  Not of our plan or design but a welcomed vacation, none the less.  On the Central Coast such things as blizzards must seem mythical or at least foreign, but out here on the East Coast we get the odd snow storm or nor’easter.  But you have El Nino, so I suppose we’re even.  

 
Last week was my first blizzard, and in spite of all the hype and doom saying on the news, I rather enjoyed it.  It really brought out the kid in me.  Each night I was glued to the TV to see if the government of Washington DC would be closed for just one more day.  Chant it with me, “one more day. One More Day!  ONE MORE DAY!”  Though I didn’t realize it, I needed a few days off to play with my wife and kids and enjoy their company.  No distractions, no possibility of running errands (thanks to 24 inches of snow), just rest.  The fact is, God is much better at giving us rest than we are at finding it on our own.
                 
At the root of the word “sabbatical” is a concept which God introduced to man on the seventh day of creation, the Sabbath.  A day of rest.  So important is the Sabbath that God commanded us to observe it in Exodus 20:8-11.  Rest is not only required of us by God, but it is called holy.  The Sabbath was the day God rested from creation, which is why he blessed it and called it holy. If we are to be holy as our Father in heaven is holy (1 Peter 1:15), then we need to understand rest. 
                 
I struggle, as many of you do, to rest when I’m on vacation.  You know the drill, you take leave, plan to rest, then you work in the yard for the duration of your time off.  In a blizzard you can’t even see your yard, so the temptation is completely removed.  All you want to do is build a 45 foot luge track in your backyard and slide down it with your kids on an inflated truck inner tube.  God is good. 
 
God is serious about rest, so we should be serious about rest.  Read Leviticus 25 about the Sabbath Year if you want to see just how serious your Lord is about you enjoying rest, enjoying your family, and seeing just how good He is. 

 
God wants you to experience Him in all facets of His goodness, and I have gotten to experience Him anew over the last five days of blizzard-sabbatical.  Each time I hear the echo of my children’s laughter, each time I snuggle with Jennifer on the couch under a warm blanket, each time I sleep past 8 a.m., I am reminded of how good God is to me.   And you know, all joking aside, it feels holy.

FAQ: Why Did Jesus Have to Die for our Sins?

by Aaron
in FAQ
Last week our Gospel Community was meeting to discuss the previous week’s sermon and someone asked, “Why did Jesus have to die?” I asked what they meant, because I knew this person trusts and believes in Jesus and His sacrifice for us. They said (I’m paraphrasing), “Why couldn’t God just say, ‘All’s forgiven’ rather than have Jesus die?” This is a really good question.
 
I mentioned it to our staff two days later in staff meeting, and someone asked how I responded. They suggested I share my response in a blog post, because this is something that has come up in multiple Gospel Communities during Notes Night. I had no idea this was a common occurrence. If you have been wondering about this question, are a GC leader who has been asked this question, or never even thought about it until now, this post is for you.
 
It is hard to start answering this question in any other place than the book of Genesis. In Genesis, God creates everything, including man, and lays out what is good in front of man. The Hebrew word for good is tov (or tob); the word refers to everything good, in the broadest sense possible. God determines what is good and beneficial and He imparts that knowledge and wisdom to the man He creates. God fashions man with His hands, He makes man in His image, He breathes His very own breath into the man to make him alive, and then He instructs the man on what is good and right and places this man in the garden.
 
God then tells the man the consequence of sin—he will die. You sin, you die (simple, right?), and yet we have made it so much more complicated today. To make this as simplistic as possible, death is separation. Death is not the stopping of our hearts, or the blood in our veins turning from red to blue (it’s all still red anyway), and it is not the synapses in our brain no longer firing impulses to our bodies. Death is separation from life. God is life and He tells us that if and when we sin, we are/will be separated from Him. Death is separation, not just from life, but also from all that is good.
 
In Genesis, God separates for the man what is light and dark, truth and lies. God makes the distinction between life and death for the man. This explanation of what constitutes life and death includes the idea that man is free to live and love God and His creation in any way the man sees as most useful. The man is not part of the garden; he was fashioned and placed within the garden to nurture and take care of its beauty because beauty is good.
 
When man decides to go his own way in the garden, without God, and do what he feels is right, he sins. In Genesis 3 you see that as soon as the man and woman sin, they tragically died. The scriptures use words like “shame” and “exposed” to illustrate what has happened. Their sin made them lose their innocence and their connection with each other and God; they became separated, they died. They, like us, no longer know the beauty of innocence, the good that allowed them to face one another without shame was now gone. They also lost true life that came from being in connection with God, the world around them, and each other.
 
The saddest part of all comes in Genesis 3:8. “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” They hide from God. Adam was the head of the human race and because he died, we are all born into life with a deep-rooted propensity to sin and seek our own “good.” However, man cannot know good apart from God showing us what it is—He alone makes that definition. To this day, sin runs rampant in our lives and causes us to be separated from others, our Creator, and eventually our own flesh.
 
How can God restore us to the place of understanding and knowing His definition of good? In the rest of Genesis 3, you see God comes walking into the garden, this place of rebellion and death, and He calls out to the man. It is not that God couldn’t see Adam hiding behind a bush trying to cover his baby-making parts; the point is that God comes looking for the man because the man could never find God on His own. God is on a rescue mission to redeem His people from death.
 
God then makes a promise, in His holiness, that He would provide Himself as a sacrifice to remove man’s sin and restore relationship. We see the first sacrifice when God slaughters an animal to clothe Adam and Eve’s shame. We can oftentimes gloss over this verse, but it is devastating—blood is spilled as the cost of man’s sin. The fact that God made this sacrifice Himself shows how important and necessary it was. Sinful people cannot dwell with a holy God. Eventually, this leads to the whole Old Testament sacrificial system, which ultimately points towards the final sacrifice for our sin, Jesus.
 
The writer of Hebrews sums up the entire Old Testament by saying in Hebrews 9:22, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” So God Himself provided Jesus, His son, at the appointed time to be the One that dies for us, in our place, as our substitution. God could not just wink at sin and say it was no big deal, like when our kids do stupid things and we act like it is okay. God is holy, just, right, and true. If He brushed sin off, He would cease to be God. Because He defined the consequence of sin as death, He had to follow through because His words are true. This is why blood, which is related to life, is required for the sin we commit.
 
The problem is that we could never pay for our own sin, because our own lives, our blood, are tainted because of our sin. What is taught through Scripture is clear - either you die, forever separated from God, or you trust in the provision of God through His Son, who has died for you. Your death for His life, your sin for His righteousness—Martin Luther referred to this as The Great Exchange.
 
I am trying to keep this blog on the shorter side, but the idea of our regaining life is rooted in the idea of sacrifice—more specifically, His sacrifice for us. Why did Jesus have to die? Because we are so evil, and the cost of sin is death. Why DID Jesus die? Because He is that good. Don’t let this get you down. There is a reason it is called “good news” or the Gospel; it is the only hope we have ever had. Our God has sought us and bought us with Himself. We don’t live in despair because of what it cost Him; we live new lives of joy because He has first loved us and given us a reason for great joy.
 
We are not dead. We are redeemed.
 

To Die For

by Aaron
I am going to write this blog to get this out of my system, I am going to rant and rave about my current situation. Almost everyone on our staff at Element, at the moment, is on this Whole30 diet where you can’t eat anything you would normally eat (unless you normally eat like a goat). The diet is expensive, hard, and if I don't feel better at the end of 30 days, I am going back to my old diet.
 
Oh how I miss my friends called Oreo's, grilled cheese sandwiches, Raisin Bran, rice, wraps, chips, and bread. I am coming to loathe fruit smoothies and eggs. I know I am irritable, I am hungry, craving cookies, and think slamming my face in a car door for 30 days would be easier than trying to read every label on the food I buy. I went to TWO of our local hippie markets trying to buy food as listed on the whole30, but they don't really carry stuff as organically made as they would like you to think.

I am coming to believe that the operative word in “diet” is the word “die.” But then I also think that as a follower of Jesus the word “die” shouldn’t be too shocking to me. We are called to die to ourselves, it was one of the things Jesus emphasized in Luke 9:27, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” These are words about embracing death, not because we are fatalistic, but because the call of Jesus in our lives holds more weight and significance than everything else.
 
I think part of the problem in Christianity today is that we treat faith like it is a diet. We deny ourselves so we feel better, we work hard to reach our own goal (not necessarily Jesus’ goals), and when it gets hard to live on mission, we cheat. Sometimes the word “cheat” is being generous because most times we don’t even cheat, we just give it up completely while still trying to convince everyone else we are still eating (living) healthy.
 
We are a people who see our normal habits of life, usually engrained in us from our culture, as healthy and reasonable even as we slowly eat ourselves to death as we mindlessly consume all that is offered (metaphorically). When Jesus comes into and invades our lives he calls us to give up certain things that are killing us, but we typically find a reason to put it off, or even find ways to justify why it is OK. We are so short sighted that we convince ourselves that our lives today are more important than our lives in eternity. Taking the short view discourages mission, dampens a healthy trust of God and His word, and places our focus more surely on our own messed up hearts.
 
Luke 9:23-25 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?"

Maybe, instead of doing a Whole30 diet, we should all do a diet that follows Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Having God renew our minds so we see what He sees is true about our own lives and those around us is central to this renewal process.
 
In my opinion, the best place to start our diet is to quit assuming we are healthy and doing great and simply allow God’s Spirit to do a careful inventory of our lives. We must also begin to listen to what others say to us (those who love us enough to be honest). We must trust God’s redemption of our life enough to stop consuming our own self-propaganda and begin to live and walk in the new life He promises. Why? Because he promises not just a Whole30, but a WholeEternity of true life.
 

Pumpkin Killing 2015 Recap

by Element Christian Church
Happy New Year Element! As we do some house cleaning around here, enjoy this video from our Pumpkin Killing this past year that slipped through the cracks of being posted online!

Advent Week 5: Christ

by Element Christian Church
Join us Thursday night as we celebrate what we've been anticipating during our Advent Journey, Christ has come! Our Christmas Eve Services which will be at 7, 9 & 11pm. Childcare through age 5 is available at our 7pm service only. We hope Christmas Eve Services will be a time of loud joy as our Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace are found in this baby, lying in a manger, that grew up and died, rose, reigns forevermore.

Advent Week 4: Peace

by Aaron

I honestly don’t know where or how to begin writing this blog, as I think that no matter what I say, someone will take offense to it. That is what is wrong in much of our country—we are far too easily offended because we see ourselves in God’s place. What I mean by that is we want everyone to listen to our own opinions and not have their own; when others have their own opinions, we want them to keep quiet.
 
I currently have a few friends on Facebook, but really two of them come to mind as I write this blog. One is ultra-conservative (which doesn’t always equate to biblical) and every half hour they are posting something about refugees or guns. I have another friend who is ultra-liberal (which doesn’t always equate to biblical), thinks Bernie Sanders is like the second coming, and every half hour they are posting something about refugees or guns. Both of these friends believe in Jesus, would confess His name in a heartbeat, would say they are surrendered to God’s Holy Spirit in their lives, and yet they couldn’t be more different in all areas but one: they have both, on many occasions, put their cultural/social preferential feelings above the Gospel of Jesus (as we all tend to do).
 
They would both deny it, and I am sure I will get 2 emails/phone calls/texts when this blog hits (if they can pull themselves out of the latest news and Facebook cycles long enough to read it). I see both of them, and many of us, living in anything but peace today because we are so focused on our individual feelings of insecurity and fear (sometimes we call these “rights”).
 
The thing that is supposed to offend us, according the scriptures, is the call of the Cross of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:18 and Galatians 5:11). Even while reading that last sentence, a person who places conservativism above Jesus will think, “Yeah, that’s why those liberals are so offended…they don’t understand the truth, like Jesus.” Likewise, someone who places liberalism above the Gospel will read the same sentence and think, “Yeah, that’s why those conservatives are so offended…they don’t know how to love correctly, like Jesus.”
 
Charles Spurgeon once said in his message “The Offense of the Cross” (all the way back in 1898), “The offense of the cross lies, first, in the way in which it deals with all human wisdom.” (you can read the entire sermon here) Until we realize that our wisdom is rubbish outside of the call of Christ, we will forever be chasing peace and never achieving it. Peace comes from the knowing and following Jesus. That is one of the main messages of Advent and Christmas--that our God has sought us on our best days, our worst days, and our days that are so embarrassing we wish we could have a “do-over.” God is the one who seeks the lost. The lost, by the way, includes Muslims, conservatives, liberals, pacifists, illegal immigrants, born natives, naturalized citizens, the KKK, the NAACP, the NRA, and any other acronym you want to throw at it. We, the people who live on planet earth, are the lost. We all have one thing in common, the need for Jesus to save us not from each other, but from ourselves, our own wisdom, and our sin.
 
There are people in our world today that follow religions that want to kill others, but we must understand that those people who do the killing are known by God, loved by God, and are just as broken as we are. Knowing they are broken should not keep us from stopping them and protecting others, but it should give us some compassion for their lost state. Our prayer should be that we would all see the world as Jesus does, not the way we do. Until we realize the offense of the cross is meant for us, we will continue the cycle of violence (many times with our words instead of guns). Until we come to truly surrender ourselves to the wisdom of Jesus first, the Gospel will not be fully proclaimed and taught through our lives.
 
Don’t get me wrong in anything I am saying. My wife and I go to the gun range to practice so we could stop someone if needed. I believe the scriptures teach personal responsibility, hard work, private property rights, the protection of those who cannot protect themselves (most specifically the unborn), and the beauty and truth of family. I believe the scriptures teach that human beings should be honored and cared for no matter if they are foreigners or natives, that the outrageous charging of interest is sin, and God calls all of us to treat others with dignity and respect. But I also believe no one will be changed by preaching “family,” or “personal responsibility,” or “hard work;” people will be changed by preaching Jesus. Jesus is the one who changes hearts and lives so let’s preach Him first.
 
When it comes down to it, our differing views will never lead to peace unless Jesus is first in our lives. Think about this…in John 13:35, Jesus says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus doesn’t say if you agree with one another on everything; He says by how you LOVE one another. This could be how you disagree, how you think about what you post before you post it online, and how we think first with a Gospel mindset above a cultural one.
 
Jesus came to bring peace. Let’s be peacemakers—not defined by our world’s standards—but by Jesus’. Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

Truly, He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
-O Holy Night

Advent Week 3

by Mike Harman
As we continue through our Advent journey, we thought weekly blog posts would serve as a reminder as to why we are doing what we are doing. In the scriptures the prophets are constantly looking forward to the coming Messiah. Like they looked forward to the coming of the Savior, we too look forward and anticipate Jesus coming again to bring culmination to His work of redemption and restoration.  The pain, suffering, sin, sickness, brokenness and decay that we see and experience in our everyday lives remind us that something is not right.
  • Based on the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus we have hope, that God will not rest from His redemptive work until every aspect of creation has been made new and every vestige of sin removed, (Romans 5:5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.).
  • We know God’s love by remembering that Jesus came for us while we were broken and lost because God loves us. (Romans 5:8…but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.)
  • We have a joy that is not based on our circumstances, but an understanding of the sovereignty of God. (1Peter 1:8 Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.),
  • We get to live in peace that passes understanding because we now have peace with God. We are no longer cut off from Him. (Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.)
As a people living in this time between the incarnation of Jesus and his second coming, we celebrate God’s breaking into history in the person of Jesus. We anticipate Jesus’ return when He comes and wraps up redemptive history, completing God’s mission of redemption and restoration. During this time we have the opportunity and privilege to trust Jesus, live in faith as those who live in gospel community, and to live on mission to make disciples, who make disciples, loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, mind and strength.
 
Happy Advent!

Advent Week 2

by Mike Harman
Jesus came for God’s mission, God’s ultimate Glory. Part of God getting glory is how He brings redemption and restoration through His life, death, and resurrection.
 
Redemption is the freedom gained through Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins so that we might be reconciled to God, escaping His eternal judgment and wrath. In Jesus we become freed from enslavement to death, now we can live life from heart that have been renewed and made alive. Our lives now live in obedience and sacrifice through the grace and mercy we’ve experienced. (Colossians 1:13-14 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.)
 
Restoration is the aspect of God’s mission to restore His purpose, design, order, and intent of creation that was marred and broken through our sinful rebellion and idolatry. God is at work to restore, making all things new, even us, so that we will accurately reflect Him as we are created in His image. (1Peter 5:10  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.)
 
Because of the redemption and restoration that we have, and are experiencing, we like Jesus should be focused on, and engaged in, God’s mission (GO BLESS). (2 Corinthians 5:18-20  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation’ that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us.)  
 
As ambassadors of God we now get to represent Jesus to our world by incarnating Him by how we live. We are called to be a people who exemplify biblical Hope, Love, Peace and Joy.
 
This week pray that God would use you in the lives of those who are lost, to speak the truth of the gospel into lives that have been alienated from God. We hope a better understanding of Advent teaches us all to live in such a way that we are turning community into gospel community, seeing God’s order and design restored as the lost are rescued and redeemed and communities are healed. (Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.)

Advent: Week 1 - Hope

by Element Christian Church

We have started our Advent Journey and are in Week One: Hope! 
Pick up your Advent Booklets This Sunday, or download our pdf version here!

Come across a word you're not familiar with? Refrence our FAQ and Terms/Definitions on pages 4-8!
And don't forget we have family devotions on page 30 for this week. 


Christmas For Kids 2016

by Element Christian Church

Christmas For Kids Ministry needs volunteers to take children shopping for Christmas and to commit to being part of an ongoing ministry to these children during 2017.
 


What: We want to reach out to children in our community of friends and neighbors who may not have a Christmas without our support.  This isn’t about purchasing gifts, it is about offering relationship, building trust, and demonstrating Jesus’ love to hurting families or those who may not know Him. 

When:  Our kickoff Christmas breakfast and shopping spree will be Saturday, December 17 at 8:30am, beginning at Element.  We ask that you pair with your GC, Women’s Ministry member, or other Element members to continue throughout 2017 ministering and building relationship with the children (see attached brochure).

Why:  Christmas for Kids began at Element 8 years ago to assist children who need assistance but do not receive government or other charitable organization Christmas gifts.  The ministry has grown but we have not seen solid relationships built, which is why we are expanding with a focus that extends throughout 2017.  We are asking Element to commit to growing this ministry beyond just a one day shopping event.  We want to make a difference in these children’s lives and in our communities.

We really can't do this every year without your generous donations. You can write a check and and turn it in at the small Christmas Tree at the Welcome Center, or donate online here.

Download our Brochure with ways to get involved with Christmas For Kids! and ways to be involved in kid's lives through out the next year!

If you have questions or family recommendations, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Christmas For Kids 2018

by Element Christian Church

Help us bless Delta High School!

This year, in lieu of Christmas for Kids program, where we take kids shopping, we want to bless our new neighbors: Delta High School, by providing a Christmas gift on their last day of school.

This gift will include a movie ticket pass, some candy, and an Element bookmark.

We really can't do this every year without your generous donations. You can write a check and and turn it in at the small Christmas Present at the Welcome Center, or donate online here, and select "Christmas for Kids!" in the first drop down box.

If you have questions, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Supporting GoBags

by Trevor Carpenter
"And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’" (Matthew 25:40 ESV)

Take a moment to envision with me a common experience in any city in the US.

You're in middle school and come home from school to find someone from Child Protective Services (CPS) and a police officer waiting for you. They tell you that your single parent made a mistake, and you're going to have to go with CPS so that they can find you a safe place to sleep tonight.

Situations like this happen often, but there other times when the situation has no criminal or law enforcement element.

A teenager might have the wherewithal to know what to grab on the way out of the house. But what if it's a crime scene now, and you cannot even enter your own home? What if all you have is your backpack for school and a skateboard?

Here in the Santa Maria Valley, we have this outreach that helps prepare people like the CPS staff with the most basic of items that they can have ready for situations just like this. They call them GoBags.



At Element, we've helped put together these GoBags in the past, and we're doing it again. During the month of November, after each service, there will be a table set up where you can get any questions answered, and pick up a large zip lock bag with all the instructions. You can choose between making up a bag for an infant, toddler, school-aged child, or a teenager. 

All we ask is that you go purchase the items on the list and return the bags to us within the month of November. These are regular items that you would need to make that first few nights not as bad as it could have been. The list has common items for their first nights such as: Pajamas, a Toothbrush, Socks, a Blanket, and a small toy or coloring book. We ask that these are new items for safety and hygiene reasons.

Then just bring the filled bag, along with the original instruction card, to the GoBag booth before or after the service you attend.

Again, we’ll be doing this all of November. Please take the time to consider how supporting children with GoBags can and does impact our community here in the Santa Maria Valley.

"But Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.'” (Matthew 19:14 ESV)

Agape Thanksgiving Dinners - November 22nd

by Element Christian Church



As we mentioned two weeks ago, Advent is just around the corner. Advent means arrival, coming into a place, or even coming into being. We want to take a concentrated look during the Christmas season about what the arrival of Jesus meant, and still means, to all of us.
 
We want to encourage all of you to join us on Sunday, November 22nd for a shared meal in people’s homes as we kick off our Christmas Advent Season. This will be a Thanksgiving type dinner with a time of reflection and joyful celebration.
 
The dinners we have done on past years during the month of November are called Agape meals. Agape is a Greek word for love that was used to translate a Hebrew word for love that was only ascribed to God in the Old Testament. In the New Testament we are told that we are first given love by God in order to love like God loves. Agape dinners are designed to encourage people to see that a dinner in, and surrounded by, community is not a one-time yearly event, but a symbol of Jesus in our daily lives as we are united and growing as His disciples in grace and love.
 
Just like the Agape meals encourage us to share the love of Jesus year round, so Advent does the same thing. Advent reminds us that Jesus’ incarnation was not just good news for those that lived 2000 years ago, it is also good news for us today.
 
This year we are combining the kick off of Advent and the Agape meals together in order to better understand God’s grace as we live with one another.  We will hand out Advent journey guides at these meals so we can all take this ride together. We will have several host homes throughout Santa Maria, Lompoc and Nipomo and would love for you to join in.
 
If you are not comfortable joining one of our Gospel Communities for a meal, we would still encourage you, at the start of Advent, to grab some journey guides, invite your family and/or neighbors over for a meal and spend time with them, getting to know them better.

Signup here to join a Gospel Community/Host Home