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Mission Update from France

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It was a joy to travel with a music and outreach team from Central on a ten day tour of France (July 8-18) sharing the Gospel in the streets, in churches, cafes and wherever the opportunity arose. We ministered to people in hotels, in the parks and town squares and we had a packed house for an outreach concert in Toulouse. 

It was providential to be in France as the terror attack took place in Nice as many people were open to talk and to hear of God’s grace and peace. One of the songs that we sang each night was “Peace Train” by Cat Stevens followed by “Amazing Grace.” Many in the audiences were not followers of Jesus. We know of at least one man who gave his life to Christ on the streets of Toulouse! One of the church members spoke with him for more than 2 hours and led him to Christ.

In Paris, we visited and encouraged the “World Team” missionaries, many who have been serving in a very difficult area for more than 25 years.  They are seeing small steps for the Gospel.  Suzy Grumelot, sister of Central member Tammy Holder, is a part of the leadership of World Team in Paris and we sang in her church. (Chapelle du Nesle) which we call the “Cave Church.”

We also ministered with church planters in an college town outside of Paris in a local Café. We shared music and the word to those both inside and outside of the café. One young man heard the music a mile away at a Burger King and came to the café! The young pastor, Manu, and his team were encouraged and we made great friends with some of the local vendors who loved the music, especially Johnny Cash!

In Toulouse, we partnered with a local Evangelical Christian church and our Central missionary, Malia Bridwell as we did some outreach events and open air concerts.  (A huge concert was planned in the town Capitole Square but it was cancelled due to the terrorist attack in Nice the night before in respect to those killed and as to not offend anyone with music following such an event.  We did however, do some acoustic outreach and it was well received. The next evening, the band also did a concert in a local church to a packed house.  There were many young people in attendance and the place was rocking with singing and dancing. Even the pastor joined in to the surprise of his congregation!

The next day we once again took to a local park to lead in music as the local church member shared with those who stopped to listen.  This is where one of the members led a man to Christ!

God moved, even in difficult situations.  He is glorified in all that we do to bless Him.  On our way home, we stopped in Nice and was the memorial sites where the 84 people were killed last week.  As we walked the streets, we prayed for the people of France and Nice.

 

Posted by Randy Mayfield

Message On a Bottle

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Summer in St. Louis is not for the faint of heart when it comes to heat and humidity. It can actually be down right dangerous if you are not careful. Well, I happen to be one of those crazy-types who love the heat and humidity. Don’t get me wrong; air conditioning is a modern-day convenience that I take extreme advantage of throughout the summer. But I love to be out in the heat.

For those of you who know me, you are likely also aware that I love to run in Forest Park. Since moving to St. Louis from Chicago in the late ‘90s (don’t worry, I am NOT a Cubs fan), I have run the Forest Park loop relentlessly. The park is truly a crown jewel of our region, and even after nearly 20 years of running it, I have yet to lose a sense of awe for its historic beauty. Whether it be a snow-covered morning in January or a sultry summer afternoon in July, the grandeur of the park captivates me on every run.

I love the heat, and I love to run. And I love to run in the heat. Take a journey back in time with me to the early summer of 2006. My wife Debbie and I had been married about two years, and we lived in a condo in the DeBaliviere Place neighborhood just north of the park. On one particular steamy afternoon, I decided to go out for a run in the park. It was a classic humid afternoon in St. Louis, and toward the end of the run I was really feeling it. A water fountain could not come soon enough. And just as that thought ran through my head, I turned a bend on the trail and saw a group of people ahead handing out water to runners passing by. This is not uncommon in the park. Many running stores and running groups have water stations set up during the summer. As I approached the group, they looked a little bit like the mirage seen from a cartoon…slightly blurry due to the heat but oh so welcoming a sight! I was curious to know who they might be this time; some of the stores handed out Gatorade and I was selfishly hoping for that. An ice cold Gatorade sounded absolutely amazing. The group had about seven or eight people handing out drinks, which was a little unusual. But they were a joyful bunch, smiling and offering encouragement and greetings to the runners as they came through. When I got to them, they handed me a bottle of water. Rats! No Gatorade. But water would certainly do the trick. I exchanged a few niceties with the group, and went on down the trail toward home…and the air conditioning.

After finishing the water, I was about to throw the bottle into a nearby trash can when I noticed an advertisement on it. Trio? Huh. What’s that? I read a little bit more, and realized that it was an advertisement for a local church. I felt a little tiny tug of the Holy Spirit in me as I read it. You see, Debbie and I had been searching for a church to call home for the entirety of our two years of marriage at that point in time. We were both believers then, and our marriage was generally healthy. But we were thirsty for a church family, and we both knew that the lack of church community was becoming a challenge for our newly married lives together. I took the water bottle home and showed Debbie. We looked up the church online. The following Sunday, we attended our very first worship service at Trio, the 5 pm service of Central Presbyterian Church.

Ten years later in 2016, and it is impossible to imagine life without that providential encounter in Forest Park. To say that Central has changed our lives for the better would be a dramatic understatement. I could write pages upon pages of the myriad ways in which the Lord has used Central to grow our faith, to equip us for ministry, and to provide us with a community that we were in such desperate need of.  Our three wonderful children have been baptized here; two of them now attend Central Christian School. At a very young age, they already have a deep knowledge of who Jesus is and what that means in their lives. Six years after becoming members, I became a staff member of Central. I’m taking classes at Covenant Theological Seminary in response to a sense of call to ordained ministry. Life without Central is impossible to imagine.

Friends, Debbie and I might never have encountered the beauty of Central were it not for a few faithful people that were out in Forest Park on that summer afternoon. They were there trying to reach people like Debbie and me, people searching for more in life and in need of the type of community that is found here in this place. We were people searching for the gospel, and we found it at Central because someone was out there to make it known.

There are spiritually thirsty people all around us, waiting for a proverbial cold bottle of water in Jesus’ name. As Easter approaches, I wonder what we might do to invite them here. Is there a friend or neighbor in your life that could be spiritually thirsty? Invite them to Central this Easter. You never know what the Lord might do as you offer them a cold bottle of water, in Jesus’ name.

My Preaching Professor and Central’s Mission

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Forty years ago Tacey and I were both students at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, MA. It was a blessed time for us as we worked our way through school. I was the grounds keeper and Tacey was the house keeper on a large estate (we lived in the servant’s quarters which was our little version of Downton Abbey – but much more dramatic).

My preaching professor was a wonderfully kind, older gentleman from Wales. He cared deeply about the careful exposition of God’s Word and that the Lord’s people needed to remember and apply that Word to their lives. His method, however, was a wee-bit narrow. Every sermon we wrote was to have three points (no more and no less) and all three points were to begin with the same letter (alliteration). I found this approach to be dogmatic, demanding, and demeaning. Nevertheless, I was determined, dutiful, and deliberate in my attempts to comply.

The rationale for the classic three-point sermon was based on the notion that the typical adult parishioner was not able to remember more than three points.

Congregations likewise need a kind of memory device to remember who (and whose) they are and why they exist. Central Presbyterian Church has a wonderful existing mission statement that has appeared in many of our publications. It is theologically rich and strategically comprehensive, but it is difficult to memorize. Our youth ministry, led by Jeremy Blythe, took our existing mission statement and recreated a shorter and more concise statement that you are beginning to see and hear:

We want to know Christ and His Word, which is why we place great emphasis on Bible preaching, Sunday school and Equip Central classes, and the study of God’s Word in homes, small groups, and a host of other venues.

We want to be known in the context of Christian community. We recognize that relationships matter deeply to God and that flying solo in the Christian life is fraught with danger. God created His church to be a place where His children delight in knowing and serving Him and in knowing and serving each other.

We want to make known the glorious gospel of Christ to those all around us, both locally and globally. We do this by loving and serving our neighbor in deeds of mercy and justice and evangelistic ministry.

There you have it – our collective reason for being. This is how we glorify the God of the Bible: know, be known, make known

When congregations have a clear God-honoring direction and purpose, it brings greater clarity, unity, and focus to them. Ministries begin to align with these purposes, resources are stewarded to achieve these purposes, and people are energized to pursue these purposes.

You will be hearing a great deal more about this at Central. For now, would you be willing not simply to memorize our purpose but also to prioritize it in your prayers?

My departed seminary professor would be pleased with this approach. After all, it is clear, concise, and compelling. 

Blessings to you all,

Pastor Bob

Posted by Bob Hopper

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