We have come a long way since the beginning organizational district assembly in 1951. Dr. Hardy C. Powers presided in that organizational District Assembly not only as General Superintendent but also as the founding District Superintendent, over the two churches of the Alaska/Yukon District (Fairbanks 1st org. 1938 & Nome org. 1945). Dr. Powers presided in that dual roll until 1956 when the Alaska/Yukon District was appointed our first DS Bert Daniels. We had at that point in 1956 grown to a total of 9 churches (Fairbanks First, Nome, Seward, Anchorage 1st, Ketchikan, Juneau, Fairbanks Totem Park, Anchorage Hillcrest, and Sitka).
1951 to 2016; has been quite a journey for Alaska, those 66 years have seen a lot of change in the “Great Land”. The last frontier has become increasingly civilized. We may still be known as the “Last Great Frontier” and many times are referred to as “The Wilderness” but the fact is we really don’t live in Igloos, and our standard of travel has moved significantly past dog sleds. The large majority of our communities enjoy most of the amenities of the 21st Century. Yet our culture is distinctly “Alaskan” and we take pride in the fact that we are distinct and have adapted to the extremes of life in what can be at times a rather harsh and unforgiving environment.
The Alaska District was began as a Missional endeavor to reach the Last Frontier with the good news of the gospel. Our pastors were not only “Pioneers” but they were in the truest sense of the term “Missionaries”. Today we are 27 congregations, Missional Outposts spread across Alaska in 20 different Alaskan communities, continuing to share the Good News of Christ’s love and the Biblical call to Holiness.
Our Alaska District Mission is simple yet profound: Every Pastor a Missional Leader, Every Church a Missional Church, Every Christian a Missionary.
Missional is defined as “. . . the adoption of the posture, thinking, behaviors, and practices of a missionary in order to engage others with the gospel message.”
The term “Missional” is simply the adjective form of the noun “missionary”. It is typically used to describe people and churches who operate as missionaries in their local contexts. A more comprehensive, classic definition of missionary describes a church that sees God’s mission as the organizing principle that defines, shapes, and sends the church to participate in what God is already doing in the world.
Jesus defined His mission simply when He said:
“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Lk 19:10
He reminds us in John chapter 10:9-10 “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.”
Then a little further on in John, Jesus tells us:
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” John 14:6
The Fathers Heart revealed in Jesus actions coupled with His words spell out His Mission, Our Mission: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.” John 3:16-17
Back to the Basics………
Yes, I know we know the basics. But could I remind you that we are called to be Missionaries and sharing the message is indeed basic. The message of Christ’s love, His sinless life, His death, His burial, His resurrection, the promise of His Spirit and the empowerment of a Spirit filled life to glorify Him.
The Biblical Call to Holiness that Christ enables in our lives through the empowerment of His Holy Spirit.
We are a Missional People because God is on a Mission to redeem His and our World. He has given us a message to share and a Mission to accomplish.
It’s the greatest Message ever received: A message of Hope, a Message of Healing, A message of Freedom, A message of Victory through Jesus Christ.
I mentioned earlier how Alaska has changed in the last 66 years, but it’s not just Alaska, our world has changed.
My individual world is constantly changing; some of it good, some not so good. This last year has seen a lot of change for Patti and I. Many of you know we built a new home this year, sold our home of 16 years and moved about 10 miles away into a smaller, more energy efficient home, (that would be my energy and actual gas and electrify as well). My energy because it’s all on one level and has much less shoveling and snow plowing than our past home required.
It’s said that: “Change is difficult, but not changing is fatal.” We are told in reference to leadership (we are all leaders here) that, “Change is the new normal for leadership success and all leaders must accept this fact.”
These quotes come from a Forbes article entitled “Every leader must be a change Agent or face Extinction”. This article goes on to say, “Leadership in the 21st Century not only requires the ability to continuously manage crisis and change – but also the circular vision to see around, beneath, and beyond the obvious in order to anticipate the unexpected before circumstances force your hand.”
N.T. Wright, leading British New Testament Scholar and retired Anglican Bishop says; “The 21st Century is a very confusing, dark and dangerous time. Much more difficult, unpredictable, and dangerous world than 30 or 40 years ago.”
My, it’s indeed tempting to reminisce, indulge me for just a moment: 1986 in North America. Average cost of a newly build home; $89,000.00, average income; $22,400.00, average monthly rent; $385.00, a gallon of gas $.89 cents, average new car price: $9,000.00.
So much has changed in our culture.
Author/Pastor Jim Cymbla (Brooklyn Tabernacle Church) paints quite a picture of our culture in his book entitled “Storm”. He gives particular attention to our Christian Culture here in North America and the “Storm” we currently find ourselves in. That picture at times can seem rather bleak and hopeless, as we look at what appears to be the advancement of Evil. We find ourselves today facing questions and battles that were not faced 30 or 40 years ago. What do we do in the face of this unparalleled Cultural Change? Some are retreating in different ways trying to turn the clock back and get back to a better time. I’m not sure that is what I see in the example of Christ’s life. Yes, He did retreat to Pray, to get focused, and find the strength of the Father, but then He came from that place of prayer to Engage his world. Remember He had a Mission and he was laser focused on fulfilling that Mission.
I believe the example of Christ continually leads us to Engage our World by sharing His Message and fully involving ourselves in His Mission. We can be discouraged by the Cultural change happening at warp speed all around us, or we can come to the realization that we may indeed live in one of the greatest periods of Missional Opportunity the body of Christ has ever seen!!!
I believe it is undeniable that our world, our Alaska communities, our friends and neighbors, our families, need the help, hope and healing that only come through Jesus Christ. We need to share in every way possible the life giving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Pastors we have been charged to “Preach the Word”. Our people need to hear good solid Biblical preaching. Sunday School teachers, Small Group leaders, “Teach the Word”. In the book of Acts the Apostles Teaching was referred to as one of the foundations upon which the church was to be built. Yes, once again let us get Back to the Basics. Let us be people of the Word, People of the book, who preach it, teach it and live it!!!
My prayer is that we find increasingly creative entrepreneurial God inspired Missional avenues for reaching our communities with the message of Christs love. This really is a day to “Get out of the boat” and “walk on water” to “courageously step up for Christ” and “expect the extraordinary” from a “supernatural God”.
We need to approach the “throne of Grace” seeking Gods wise leading and His powerful anointing, with cries of desperation in our hearts.
Could I share with you a story out of Jim Cymbla’s book “Storm” that I have shared with a couple of our district boards. It’s a story that the Lord brings to my mind frequently these last few months, a story that reveals a prayer of desperation.
In the words of Jim Cymbla “One Tuesday, while kneeling in my usual spot during our noon prayer meeting, I heard a woman’s voice to my left. Her head was in her hands, and she was praying softly. But something about the way she prayed caught my attention. She was talking to God as if He stood five feet away. “You know, Lord, I’m going to lose that boy to the world,” she prayed through tears. She started quietly at first, but as her pleading grew stronger, her voice became louder. “I’m going to lose him to the gangs unless you come and help me. I can’t do it by myself.” I could hear the desperation in her prayer. She cried out to God with all the urgency of a heartbroken mom. “You’ve got to do something, God! You’ve got to do something now!” I could hear everything she said. “You know his father is dead and gone,” she reasoned. There was a pause, and although I couldn’t see her face, I could hear her weeping. “I’m all alone trying to raise him. And you know all the voices out there calling to him. God, you have to help me!” Her tone was so bold, sincere, heartfelt, and intimate. “If you don’t help me, no one can!” she prayed, before her words dissolved into sobs.”
Desperate times require desperate prayers.
I have been so excited and encouraged in visiting our churches that so many of you leaders are casting the vision for and leading your people in prayer ministry. Walls of prayer, Morning Prayer meetings, nights of prayer, intercessor groups, these are all being given stronger emphasis. Yes, the need is great but remember we serve an Awesome God who is able. Remember the promise of Ephesians 3:20-21 “Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”
Let me ask you what I believe are some very serious and appropriate questions, especially considering the circumstances of our day. What is God’s dream for your part of Alaska? What do you believe is in the very heart of God Almighty as His desire for your community? How does he plan to use your Missional Community, your church, in fulfilling His heart’s desire for your community? He has called each of us to be “World Changers”, how are we working with Him in that endeavor?
Our district Vision continues to be:
The ….. Alaska 20/22 Vision:
“By the year 2022 the Lord is leading us in Alaska to be a district of fifty two strong and healthy, externally focused, spiritual vibrant, Missional local congregations. Faith communities built strongly on the Living Word of God, who are continually seeking transformational impact within: individuals, families, extended families, and communities.”
How – praying and partnering ….
Our church planting task force is continuing to pray and we are encouraging you to pray with us: we are looking for churches and individuals who feel the stirring of God to begin new works.
In January we were able to continue the process of resourcing of our district pastors by bringing Dr. Bill Wiesman to conduct our 3rd District Dynamic Church Planting International Training seminar. This time we conducted a “Churches Planting Churches” Training thanks to Dr. Wiesman, Pastor Manoj Ingle Master Trainer, and Trainers; Pastors Michael Flowers and Micky Boyer. Seventeen of our pastors were able to make this training time – PTL.
What we are praying for is mother churches who are willing to step out and begin a new work, as the district we are more than willing to partner with you in helping to support new works. Our Soldotna congregation has taken a step to partner with the district in beginning a new work this summer/fall. Pastor Steve and Tanya Rainey will be retiring from the Coast Guard in July and returning to Alaska following the Lord’s call to plant a new work in Kenai, Alaska. Please join us in praying for this new work in the Kenai area to flourish, souls to be saved and the Kingdom to be build.
Yes, we do have a message to share and a mission to accomplish. It’s the greatest message ever received and the Mission is the most significant one we will ever be sent on!!!
As a former member of the US Military I have always had great respect for the ethos “No Man Left Behind”, which dates back to a group of American Soldiers known as “Rogers Rangers”, who fought with the British in the French and Indian War of 1756, 20 years before we declared independence from the British.
That military tradition of “No Man Left Behind” has been tested many times in battle and been responsible for many lives saved.
The Mission of Christ seems to ring strong in the same vein, as we listen to the words of II Peter – “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” II Peter 3:9 NLT
The Lord’s will is for “No Man to be Left Behind”. That’s the Mission we have been called to, “. . . To Go and Make Disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19 NLT
The fields are white unto harvest as the Lord said, and our God is able, let us therefore pray for labors for the harvest, and participate in that harvest.
It has been very exciting to see our two newest district congregations: “Hillcrest Sudanese” a Parent Affiliated Congregation sponsored by Hillcrest, and Second Chance Samoan a new start also sponsored by Hillcrest continue to thrive this year. Both of these congregations have continued to grow significantly, as have a number of our Alaska congregations who are effectively reaching out to their communities and loving men, women, teens and children to Christ Jesus.
I would like to acknowledge those Outreach efforts this morning with our Alaska Awards & Eagle Awards: (as your church is called Pastor would you please come forward to receive your churches award.)
Alaska Award This award is given to the churches with the highest % increase in AM attendance for the year.
Church Pastor Avg. AM Attendance
Hillcrest Sudanese Pastor Michael Biel 36.8% +14
Valdez Rev. Phil Merioles 30.5% +11
Second Chance Samoan Rev. Lalofau Leifi 30.0% +6
Palmer Family Rev. Joseph Parreira 28.3% +15
Ketchikan Rev. Peter Epler 15.9% +10
Hillcrest Rev. Stephen Sheets 12.4% +16
Soldotna Rev. Bruce Hardesty 11.6% +11
This morning we will be giving two Eagle Awards.
1. Our first Eagle Award goes to the church with the greatest overall increase in all areas. This congregation also qualified as the first Alaskan congregation in many years for the General Superintendent’s Growth Award, by helping to sponsor and support two new start congregations.
Ø Hillcrest Nazarene Pastor Stephen Sheets
2. Our second Eagle Award is the District Missional Spirit Award. This award goes to the congregation who lead the way this year in a team financial effort for our district by overpaying every budget area: specifically they overpaid WEF by $18,378.77 which was 15.29% paid to WEF. In total this congregation over paid all of their budget assignments by $24,296.25
Ø Chapel of the Cross Nazarene Pastor Gene Rosebecke
I so much appreciate this kind of spirit, which has enabled our district’s history which is unparalleled around the world in giving to WEF by 100% or over for our 66 year history. This year as a district we overpaid our WEF by $31,758.04 or 120% payment. PTL….
God is good, all the time!!! It really is our desire to share the Message and fulfill the Mission here in Alaska and around the World!!! We will continue to do that by remaining faithful to “The Basics”.
As I conclude my report this morning, let me say thank you for the wonderful privilege of serving as your DS these last 6 years. It hardly seems like 6 years have gone by since our initial election to this position, but I guess that’s good, because time fly’s when you’re having fun.
It would not be fun without the Awesome Leadership Team we enjoy on the Alaska District. Our District Advisory Board: laymen – Dennis Strait(secretary), Dick Smith and John Linnell, our elders – Rev. Dan Wiese, Rev. Gene Rosebecke, and Rev. MJ Quick as well as our auxiliary Chairs – NMI, Kathy Wigginton, SDMI, Rev. Stephen Sheets, and NMI, Rev. David Smith, as well as our District Secretary Rev. Jason Evoy and District Treasurer Denise Linnell.
Yes we do indeed enjoy wonderful leadership on the Alaska District with all our district boards and councils for which I am very appreciative to each one of you that volunteers your time and leadership to build the Kingdom of God here in “The Great Land”. Thank you!!
I am also thankful for my part time office secretary and full time wife, who continues to serve with me in fulfilling the Call that the Lord Jesus extended to us some 35 plus years ago. Patti, thank you, you are indeed a blessing in my life and I look forward to continuing to serve the Lord Jesus with you into the future.
Paul R. Hartley