Response to the 23 Pastors Who Criticized My Task Force Address

Note: Yesterday, General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God, USA, Dr. George Wood sent the following letter to the Springfield News-Leader as a response to the May 2, 2013 letter written by 23 area pastors criticizing my address to the Springfield Task Force on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. As yet, the News-Leader has not given a date when Dr. Wood’s letter might be published. In the interest of offering a timely response to the questions posed by Rev. Snider and the 22 other Springfield clergy, I am posting on my blog Dr. Wood’s letter.

Rev. John Lindell of James River Church recently addressed Springfield’s Task Force on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, offering “a theologically conservative viewpoint on the issue of the sexual orientation and gender identity ordinance.” In response, Rev. Phil Snider and 22 other Springfield clergy published an opinion piece criticizing his use of Scripture and encouraging him and his church to “consider affirming the deepest and most authentic biblical values.”

Unfortunately, their response fails to refute Lindell’s argument.

Lindell’s reading of Scripture is straightforward: God creates and commends marriage as the sexual union of a man and a woman (Genesis 1:26, 27; 2:18, 22, 24, 25) and prohibits extramarital unions (Exodus 20:14), including homosexual ones (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:25−27; and 1 Corinthians 6:9−11). It is significant that Snider and his colleagues offer no biblical references that affirm homosexual behavior. There are none.

Consequently, they are reduced to arguing from negatives:

They argue that homosexuality is not a “major theme in the Bible” because Scripture mentions it explicitly in “eight verses at most.” This confuses incidence with relevance. It overlooks the fact that marriage is a major theme of the Bible. And it fails to note that the Bible’s prohibitions of sexual immorality implicitly include homosexuality.

Second, they argue that Lindell is inconsistent in his usage of the Bible because he doesn’t advocate various laws: the death penalty for homosexuals (Leviticus 20:13), the prohibition of tattoos (Leviticus 19:28), the death penalty for rebellious children (Deuteronomy 21:18−21), and the marriage of women to their rapists (Deuteronomy 22:28−29). Also, they charge, Lindell fails to affirm “patriarchy and slavery,” which Paul viewed as “part of the natural order.”

Traditionally, Christians have distinguished three uses of Old Testament law. The moral law tells us what is right and wrong. The ceremonial law outlines the forms of Jewish worship in biblical times. And the judicial law expresses the polity of Israel while it existed in the Promised Land. Of these three forms of law, the New Testament affirms that only the moral law applies directly to Christians today. That is why Paul alludes to Leviticus’s moral prohibitions of homosexual behavior in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10, but not to their judicial punishments. Snider and his colleagues can charge Lindell with inconsistency only if they ignore this standard Christian interpretation of Old Testament law and insist on a woodenly literal one instead. Also, it’s unclear how Paul, who advocated celibacy (1 Corinthians 7:7) and urged a Christian master to emancipate his slave (Philemon 1:15−16), could have viewed either patriarchy or slavery as a permanent part of the “natural order.”

Furthermore, the argument from inconsistency itself seems inconsistent. Alongside of its prohibition of homosexual behavior, Leviticus 18 prohibits incest, adultery, child sacrifice, and bestiality. I sincerely doubt that Snider and his colleagues would fault anyone who opposed those behaviors on the basis of this passage. So why criticize Lindell’s opposition to homosexuality on the basis of this passage?

Third, Snider and his colleagues believe that “a more thematic view of the Bible can reveal the divine intent where justice, love and compassion are honored over violence, hatred and insensitivity.” Of course, Lindell and his church already affirm those positive values. Moreover, in his remarks to the task force, he said, “as followers of Christ we do not hate anyone.” And given that “love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10), it’s hard to see how “a more thematic view of the Bible” can ever legitimately overturn specific prohibitions of the moral law.

Snider and his colleagues ask a good question: “are we allowed to pick and choose which Bible verses carry authority, only giving weight to those that support our preconceived biases?” Obviously not! Unfortunately, by failing to cite any Scripture that affirms homosexual behavior, by ignoring the standard Christian interpretation of Old Testament law, and by appealing to a thematic view of the Bible that ignores what the Bible actually says, Snider and his colleagues have shown that they, not John Lindell, are reading Scripture with “preconceived biases.”

George O. Wood
General Superintendent
Assemblies of God

Springfield Task Force on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The following is a manuscript of my April 22, 2013 remarks to the City of Springfield Task Force on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

First of all, I want to thank the members of this Task Force for your service to the community. I think it is safe to say that we all desire the City of Springfield to prosper. My understanding is that I have been asked to address the Task Force both as the Lead Pastor of one of the larger congregations in the area, and to give voice from a theologically conservative viewpoint on the issue of the sexual orientation and gender identity ordinance.

At the outset, let me make it clear that as followers of Christ we do not hate anyone. According to our faith and the teaching of the Bible, we would regard everyone in this room (myself included) as sinners in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. Furthermore, Christians should never persecute practicing homosexuals and Christians should support the prosecution of crimes against homosexuals. That being said, I think it is important to make the clear distinction when discussing issues of sexual orientation and gender identity that disagreement is NOT discrimination.

To address the issue of homosexuality from a biblical standpoint, we have to begin with God’s original design for human sexuality and relationship. This design is found in the book of Genesis where we have recorded for us the very creation of humanity. Reading from Genesis, “The Lord God said, ‘it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’ . . . the Lord God made a woman . . . and brought her to the man . . . For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Genesis 2:18,22,24-25, NIV).

That makes clear four foundational truths: 1st God created sexual identity; 2nd In creating sexual identity, God made human beings male and female. After Adam, a man was created, a suitable and appropriate mate was made for him and that mate was the woman Eve; 3rd There was sexual intimacy between the man and woman and; 4th God intended the expression of sexual intimacy to take place between a man and a woman within the context of marriage.

Masculinity and femininity are at the heart of God’s design and they form the basis for marriage. Both genders reflect God’s image, and in joining them together in marriage they complete one another in every conceivable way – emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Homosexual behavior, on the other hand, has typically departed from God’s blueprint in two foundational ways: instead of embracing the male-female design, homosexuality embraces a same sex preference as the basis for sexual intimacy. And, until recently, homosexuality departed from God’s intent for sexual intimacy by taking place outside the confines of marriage. (1)

Since the subject at hand is not gay marriage (though in the near future it may be coming to a Task Force near you), let me address what the Bible has to say about same sex – sexual intimacy.

In the Old Testament book of Leviticus, the Bible says, “Do not practice homosexuality; it is a detestable sin” (Leviticus 18:22, NLT). Then one chapter later, it adds: “If a man has sex with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is abhorrent” (Leviticus 20:13, MSG).

The same principle is upheld in the New Testament book of Romans where the Bible says, “Instead of believing what they knew was the truth about God, they deliberately chose to believe lies . . . Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relationships with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men . . . .” (Romans 1:25-27, NLT).

There are other verses that speak directly to the issue of homosexuality, and while it is not my purpose to give an exhaustive listing of Bible verses that speak of homosexuality, it is important to note that the Bible clearly addresses the issue of homosexuality. The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 writes, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were (NIV). Two of the four Gospel writers quote Jesus Christ affirming the male/female relational pattern established by God. In Matthew 19:4-5 we read, He [Jesus] answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’?” (ESV).

If you want a thorough treatment of the topic, you would do well to read Pittsburgh Theological Seminary Professor, Dr. Robert Gagnon’s, 500 page text The Bible and Homosexual Practice. It is considered by people on both sides of the debate as the most thorough treatment of the subject. Once you have read his text, the conclusion remains: 1. God created human beings as male and female; 2. He meant for sexual intimacy to occur within the framework of a one male – one female marriage; 3. The Bible sees any departure from that design as outside of God’s will for our lives.

Whether a person accepts the Bible’s authority on the subject is another matter, but the Bible itself is quite clear. (2)

There are those who have embraced homosexuality who will say, “But this is who I am! It’s how I was made!” The train of thought goes something like this: “Why should I be condemned for following who I am?” or “God made me this way.”

To be sure, there are those who have same sex attraction but from a biblical perspective, homosexual orientation is no different than any other orientation a person might have toward a lifestyle that may be outside of God’s will. A person could have an orientation toward anger, chemical addiction, gambling, slander, stealing, pride, lying, etc. (3)

As Evangelicals, we believe that in Christ there is available a transformation that fundamentally changes a person and enables them to live a life that honors God by equipping them with power to overcome those desires that would lead to behavior that dishonors God, or by eradicating a particular desire altogether, which does not always happen, but in my 30 years of ministry has happened.

Finally, let me add that our passion as followers of Christ is reflective of the Father’s passion that people individually would flourish and that as a result the entire community might flourish.

There are present in the universe physical laws which if observed can benefit us individually and as a community. In the same way, God has designed the universe with moral laws which if observed can benefit an individual and the community. For example, we could say “being greedy and spending all of your money on yourself is not only bad for that person but for the community.” On the other hand, being generous is beneficial to an individual and the community in which they live. In the same way, homosexuality is not God’s original design for sexuality. Therefore, it’s not good for human flourishing and as followers of Christ we want to promote things that result in a flourishing city. (4)

In addition to what I have just stated, I have additional concerns with any ordinance that extends protection in employment to individuals based on sexual orientation/gender identity.

1st: It is an assault on the 1st Amendment rights of free exercise of religion and free speech.

Gay advocates will argue that: 1. Forcing businesses to hire homosexual and transgender employees; 2. Forcing religious groups to facilitate gay adoptions and; 3. Forcing parents to subject their kids to a homosexual curriculum does not burden the free exercise of religion because religion is merely a matter of what a person believes on the inside, that religion is a private matter and has nothing to do with outward practice.

But such an understanding of religion would be completely foreign to New Testament thought and theology. In his epistle, James writes that if a person has faith but no works, their faith is dead. The proof of a living internal faith is behavior that has put faith in action. To quote a children’s song from Sunday School, “If you’re saved and you know it then your life should surely show it.”

Christians may choose to hire homosexuals and transgender employees, but forcing them to do so puts them in a situation, in some instances, of tacitly endorsing behavior the Bible clearly denotes as sinful behavior or be charged with criminal wrongdoing.

For example, in Canada, a man was fined $3,400 for refusing to print stationary for a homosexual activist organization.(5) Last week, the ACLU and the State of Washington filed suit against a floral shop in Richland, WA for failing to provide floral arrangements for a gay wedding. (6)

2nd: This is part of an incremental strategy by the gay/lesbian lobby to indoctrinate society and promote the radical agenda of PROMO and their associates.

Emboldened by this Task Force’s acquiescence to PROMO and their associates on this issue, it won’t be long and the debate will turn to: forcing Christian children and their parents to endure a gay school curriculum, restricting what pastors can or cannot say in teaching the Bible (which has already happened in Canada) forcing religious organizations to assist in Gay adoptions, and cutting funding for Christian Higher Education.

Some may argue that no draft of the ordinance contemplated all of these points and while that may be true, it would be misleading to overlook the fact that the 2010 Strategic Plan of the Mayor’s Commission on Human Rights does contemplate several of these points – along with: private informants (p.17), mandatory gay orientation classes for business owners (p.17), rainbow stickers (p.17-19), and criminal penalties for those who dissent on religious grounds. (7)

3rd: The sexual orientation and gender identity ordinance or one similar is not reflective of what the majority of Springfieldians want.

This Task Force was established because the Springfield City Council saw significant community reaction to the sexual orientation and gender identity ordinance last August. While dialogue has been meaningful – I would urge you not to recommend an ordinance that is in any way similar to what has been presented; it is my opinion that such an ordinance does not reflect the values of the majority of voters in the City of Springfield.

Thank you for your time.

_____________________________

(1) Dr. James Emery White, Church and Culture Blog, Volume 7 Number(s) 58-64, July 2011.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Ibid.

(4) Timothy Keller, Veritas Forum at Columbia University, “What do Christians have against Homosexuality?” [8 of 11]

(5) Dr. James Dobson, Eleven Arguments Against Same Sex Marriage, Part 1 of 5.

(6) David Knowles, Washington state and the ACLU sue florist for refusing to sell flowers for gay wedding because of Christian beliefs, NYDailyNews.com.

(7) 2010 Strategic Plan of the Mayor’ s Commission on Human Rights and Community Relations, March 17, 2010.

Missions Sunday

Dear James River Family,

Last weekend the Missions Sunday with Dan Betzer was incredible! We are so thankful to pastor a church filled with people who love God and have given themselves to spreading the Gospel and helping hurting people around the world.

Sunday we had a record Faith Promise response as together we committed to believe God for over $4.6 million to be given to Missions this year! We were especially encouraged by the fact that more people than ever before made Faith Promises to missions. The Faith Promise provides the funds necessary to support 471 missionaries serving in 91 countries around the world, as well as, to build churches and orphanages overseas and support ministries in the U.S. and in Southwest Missouri.

On Missions Sunday, we highlighted a special project to plant churches in Siberia. Over 21,000 cities in Siberia have no Church of any kind! For $7,000 a church can be started in Siberia. The $7,000 will provide for: the Bible College education of the pastor, start-up cost for the church, two years rent on a building and a two year salary for the pastor. Our hope is to help Missionary Michael Chowning with the funds necessary to plant 100 churches in Siberia.

If you haven’t yet given toward the Siberia project, we hope you will become a part of this exciting opportunity to share the Gospel with the millions of people living in Siberia. On Monday, a businessman texted me with the following: “Pastor, God touched our hearts yesterday to start one church [in Siberia]. We will be bringing a check for $7,000 today or tomorrow.”

Whether you can give in a way that will start several churches, one church, or your gift combines with the gifts of others to start a church – we hope you will consider being a part of the Siberia project.

Below we have attached three links: the first is an online giving link that will allow you to give toward the Siberia project. The second features an excerpt from the JRA Vision Video highlighting this project and Missionary Michael Chowning. The third is a link to the James River podcast featuring Dan Betzer’s message from Sunday. As well, we have included in this email stats highlighting the missions giving from 2012 and the missions trips available in 2013.

The Lord is doing amazing things at James River Assembly – it’s a very exciting time in the life the church. We love you, we thank the Lord for you, and we pray God’s blessing over every area of your life.

Believing the Best is Yet to Come,

Pastors John and Debbie

For more information on mission trips click here.

Springfield’s Discrimination Law Change

This week the Springfield City Council had their first public meeting in consideration of Council Bill 2012-226 (http://www.springfieldmo.gov/citycouncil/agenda/2012/08-13-12/2012-226.pdf). The proposed bill seeks to prevent discrimination in the City of Springfield, specifically protection from discrimination related to sexual orientation and gender identity with regard to employment, recreation, education, housing and other phases of public welfare.

In addressing this issue there will be those who will view this blog as the writings of a bigoted, narrow-minded, fundamentalist evangelical Christian whose only agenda is hatred. For the record, I am not pro-discrimination or homophobic. This blog is not being written because I harbor any pent-up anger against the LGBTQ community. I love the people of Springfield and have a desire to see the city flourish. That being said, I do believe that the Bible clearly teaches that homosexuality is a sin, not a cardinal sin, but it is sin nonetheless, and thus the church has an obligation to, in the words of Paul, speak the truth in love that people might be redeemed.

The debate over this bill is a microcosm of a debate that is currently playing itself out nationally in almost every cultural sphere. However, the unfortunate reality is that, ever so subtly, this debate has been framed by defining disagreement as discrimination and, subsequently, as hate or even a hate crime. The areas of primary concern in this bill are as follows:

  1. It violates the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States;
  2. It does not provide an adequate religious exemption; and
  3. It does not provide a clear determination of gender identity in the accommodation language.

First Amendment

Line 70 in the bill provides the commission the power to enlist religious groups to assist in providing education on sexual orientation and gender identity. This mandate is a violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States in that it does prohibit free exercise of religion. The bill essentially places the government in a position to advocate what religion should endorse and teach.

Religious Exemption

Section 62-34 (7) provides a religious exemption, however, the exemption is more narrow than the exemption presently provided by the Missouri Human Rights Act or the proposed federal Employee Nondiscrimination in Employment Act (HR 2015) that was introduced in Congress in 2007 by former Congressman Barney Frank. As well, the exemption allows a preference for “members of its own religion” with no definition. Theologically there are differences between groups/denominations within the Christian religion. There are some who embrace and ordain clergy regardless of sexual orientation, and there are some who do not. The way the exemption is worded, a church could say they do not hire homosexuals, but if a complainant indicates that they too are a “Christian” and thus part of the “religion,” the church within the city limits of Springfield would not be permitted to discriminate on a valid theological viewpoint (a viewpoint that is in fact the historic, traditional Judeo-Christian understanding of millennia). Just as concerning is that this exemption would be nearly impossible to invoke for a Christian school or para-church entity that does hire outside its own particular denomination, membership, or faith.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2007 (H.R.2015.IH) (“ENDA”) provides much better language on this topic. I would suggest adopting this language, which states:

SEC. 6. EXEMPTION FOR RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS.

(a) In General- This Act shall not apply to any of the employment practices of a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society which has as its primary purpose religious ritual or worship or the teaching or spreading of religious doctrine or belief.

(b) Certain Employees- For any religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society that is not wholly exempt under subsection (a), this Act shall not apply with respect to the employment of individuals whose primary duties consist of teaching or spreading religious doctrine or belief, religious governance, supervision of a religious order, supervision of persons teaching or spreading religious doctrine or belief, or supervision or participation in religious ritual or worship.

(c) Conformity to Religious Tenets- Under this Act, a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society may require that applicants for, and employees in, similar positions conform to those religious tenets that such corporation, association, institution, or society declares significant. Under this Act, such a declaration by a religious corporation, association, educational institution or society stating which of its religious tenets are significant shall not be subject to judicial or administrative review. Any such declaration made for purposes of this Act shall be admissible only for proceedings under this Act.

I am in full agreement with the position of Dr. George Wood, Assemblies of God General Superintendent, who wrote the following to the Springfield City Council:

I am writing to express my concern over a proposed ordinance that could subject churches in the City of Springfield to liability for discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. While the ordinance contains an exemption for religious organizations, the exemption is narrower than that provided by the Missouri Human Rights Act or the proposed federal Employee Nondiscrimination in Employment Act (HR 2015) that was introduced in Congress in 2007 by former Congressman Barney Frank. I find it incongruous that the City of Springfield would adopt a much narrower exemption for religious organizations than comparable state and federal laws, and respectfully suggest that the City Council revise the religious employer exemption in the proposed ordinance to mirror the broader exemption under Missouri law or the federal Employee Nondiscrimination in Employment Act.

Gender Identity Accommodation

If gender identity demands public accommodation, at what point do you draw the line? Could an individual on the basis of gender identity choose to enter the restroom or locker room of the opposite sex? The bill itself is ambiguous. Under Sec 62-182 it states that it is possible to have a “women’s bowling night” but gender identity definition includes “appearance, or mannerisms.”  Does that mean if a male dresses in female attire or merely adopts female mannerisms they can attend any female event or enter any female dressing room or public restroom?

Given these areas of concern, I have written Springfield’s City Council asking them to reconsider their efforts in regard to this bill. If you believe these concerns are valid, then I would strongly encourage you to make your voice heard, but when you make it heard, I would even more strongly encourage you to make it heard in a way that communicates love for people.

John Lindell
Lead Pastor, James River Assembly

Easter 2012 … This is Amazing Grace!

Dear Friends,

The last three weeks have been filled with a demonstration of God’s grace in the lives of people that has encouraged our hearts and left us amazed! There is no question we have seen God move in response to the fasting and prayers of people. Here’s a little recap of what has happened recently at James River Assembly:

  • The Wednesday Evening Prayer Meetings have been powerful – and the results are obvious as we see God moving in the Church!
  • The Realife Spring Retreats have had record attendance with 51 students making decisions to follow Christ and 71 students filled with the Holy Spirit!
  • The Easter Express had a record attendance with nearly 10,000 people coming out on Saturday morning at both campuses. It was such a great day as we shared God’s love with the community!
  • On Easter Sunday, 14,263 people came to the morning worship services, 240 made decisions for Christ and 125 were baptized!
  • The JRA/West Campus used 3 additional rooms for overflow and ran out of chairs! We can’t wait to see what happens next year when we have the new sanctuary and expanded children’s area!

Some very exciting things are in store for us in the next few weeks, filled with great opportunities to Pray, Invite and Bring. We can’t wait to see what happens as:

  • 45 ladies take the Designed for Life Conference to El Salvador (April 9-15)
  • Realife hosts its final Spring Retreat (April 13-15)
  • Men gather for the 2nd Annual JRA Men’s Conference (April 20-21) [Guys if you haven’t signed up – you don’t want to miss it!]
  • The James River Girls come together for the James River Women’s Rally with guest speaker, Jennifer Beckham (April 27)

We want to thank each and every one of you who prayed, served and gave of your time, talents and resource during the services and events of the Easter weekend. You made Jesus famous, darkness tremble and Heaven smile.

Much love,

John & Debbie Lindell

Lead Pastors, James River Assembly

Designed For Life

Dear Friends,

The James River Assembly Designed for Life Women’s Conference is now just a memory, but what an amazing weekend it was for those who attended and for the entire church. The services were life changing as women heard from world class speakers Charlotte Gambill, Nancy Alcorn and John & Helen Burns.

We have received so many beautiful testimonies of how God so powerfully worked in the lives of women. Here are a couple excerpts from some of the emails we have received:

  • DFL was a life-changing experience. Every moment was beautiful, but when Charlotte spoke on Saturday, it was all I could do to not jump out of my seat. I realized in that moment that it’s not about me. God has miraculously healed my heart. My eyes are on Him and Him alone. That is sooooooo God and not at all anything I could have done without Him. I’m holding out for what God has for me and I’m no longer making backup plans. Thank you. Kim
  • Wow Debbie….what an amazing conference!!! I honestly think it was one of the best that I have attended! There are no words to describe the love and joy I feel….Throughout the entire weekend, I felt God stirring in my heart. I could hear Him telling me that something great was going to happen as a result of the conference. Melody


It is nearly impossible to describe in one email all that happened this past weekend, but here are a few of the highlights from the DFL Conference:

  • 2,992 delegates.
  • 50 women made decisions to follow Christ.
  • 25 non-English speaking Hispanic women attended (8 of them gave their hearts to Christ!).
  • $60,000 was given to Mercy Ministries (http://www.mercyministries.org/homepage) with an additional $10,000 given to support other ministries that help hurting women and children around the world.
  • 299 children were sponsored in Haiti—which means JRA now sponsors well over 1,000 children in Haiti (http://www.missionofmercy.org).
  • Announced the first ever DFL Missions trip to El Salvador (http://www.MoodyMissions.org).
  • The Be A Gift presentation was able to honor two women of great faith with one woman receiving a family Disney Cruise, shopping spree and a $1,500 Lowe’s gift card for home repairs, and the other woman receiving patio furniture, deck expansion and a beautiful canary yellow convertible VW Beetle.
  • In addition, those attending the DFL Conference enjoyed an incredible fireworks display, carnival, Group-1-Crew concert and lots of gifts and surprises.
  • 500 men and women volunteered and served the women.

We thank the Lord for all He has done and everyone who worked so hard to make the DFL 2011 Conference such a success. We’re looking forward to seeing what God will do in the days ahead.

You won’t want to miss DFL 2012—it is going to be amazing! If you register now, you get a HUGE discount!

The Best is Yet to Come!
John & Debbie
Lead Pastors, JRA

Life Groups

Dear Friends,

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus said, “Go and make disciples….” For the last several months, we have been praying and seeking God concerning how we can fulfill God’s heart for His people. There is nothing that is more important to us than seeing people grow in their knowledge of God and an understanding of what He has called all of them to do…”go and make disciples”!

This past weekend was incredibly exciting as we shared plans of how we believe God is going to help us more effectively make disciples by going to a weekly Life Group format. As people have heard about this new direction, their enthusiasm has been so encouraging! Together we are looking forward to seeing how God will use this new season in the life of James River Assembly. (For those not familiar with the term “Life Group,” the JRA Life Groups are small group meetings that are held in homes. It is a great way to meet new friends, encourage other believers, and grow in your walk with God.) If you weren’t able to be with us last Sunday night, you can watch the message and hear all the details.

Moving to a weekly Life Group format means that, starting in January 2012, we will no longer have a Sunday Evening service at either of the James River Assembly campuses. The 2012 Life Group schedule will feature 3 ten-week trimesters: a winter trimester, a spring trimester and a fall trimester. Each group will be encouraged to use sermon-based curriculum, which means each Life Group will be discussing the Sunday morning message. There are multiple advantages to pursuing this approach:

  • It will help people apply the Sunday morning message to their lives
  • It will make it easier for people in the Life Groups to enter into discussion
  • It will keep the church moving forward in unity as we continue to grow
  • Weekly meetings will help people build closer relationships with one another

If you are not in a Life Group, we want to encourage you to sign up today. You can sign up by going online here. When you go to the Life Group page, you will find an online feature that lists the open groups along with a brief bio of the leader. You can also sign up for a Life Group by visiting the Connect Center at either James River Assembly campus.

We can’t wait to see how God is going to use the Life Groups to help us more effectively disciple people and build community at James River Assembly. Thank you for being a part of this faith journey – great days are ahead – with all of our heart we know the BEST IS YET TO COME!

Much love,

John and Debbie Lindell
Lead Pastors, JRA

Love417 – Joplin Tornado Relief Update

Dear Friends,

The response of our James River family to the Joplin Tornado Relief effort has been amazing. In light of your response, we wanted to give you a brief update.

We have had James River personnel in the area from the beginning, doing assessment and assisting those in need. To date, 1,200 JRA volunteers have signed up to help, and already over 260 people have served on teams in Joplin. The donations continue to arrive, both in supplies and in monetary gifts, totaling more than $79,000.

The need is huge. According to the Emergency Management personnel, 6,953 homes have been destroyed, of which 43% had no insurance coverage. Another 359 homes experienced major damage (65% uninsured). Over 12,000 people have been directly affected by the storm’s damage.

To date, we have partnered with distribution sites to organize and distribute much needed items to families in need. Through the relationship of Cherish Kids with the Missouri Division of Social Services, we have been able to meet the needs of both clients and staff from the Joplin office. As well, teams have assisted homeowners in debris removal (separating it into brush, construction, metal, disposable and keepsakes) and provided 1,200 meals. As we move forward, we will continue to assist in the meeting of specific needs, cleanup efforts and construction.

Thank you for your response to Pray, Give and Volunteer. We so appreciate your generosity and willingness to serve. Through your lives, the gospel is being preached and people are receiving hope.

We love you!

John & Debbie Lindell
Lead Pastors, James River Assembly

Joplin Tornado Relief (Love417 Project)

Dear Friends,

By now you have probably seen the pictures of the devastation from the tornado that hit Joplin. One hundred sixteen people are confirmed dead with the tornado leaving a swath of devastation one-half mile wide and six miles long. The City Manager of Joplin says that one-third of the city has been destroyed.

This morning, the James River Assembly Leadership Team met to create a plan for an immediate, intermediate and long-term relief response. Presently, we are in contact with some of the command centers in Joplin, as well as, area agencies who are formulating plans for clean-up and recovery.

How can you help?

  • Pray: For those who have suffered the loss of family and friends, had their home/business destroyed, may temporarily lose their job, and for the relief workers who are on site. If you have family or friends who are in need of special prayer, you can select the prayer link at the bottom of this email and submit your prayer request, and we will pray for those needs at the Prayer Meeting on Wednesday evening.
  • Give: There are two ways to give:
    • Money: At the bottom of this email is a link that will allow you to give money that will be used to purchase the supplies necessary for relief and reconstruction, as well as, to assist families who are in need.
    • Supplies: You can bring the following items to either James River Assembly campus: blankets (new or nearly new), snack bars, toiletries (soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, contact solution, feminine hygiene products, etc.). We will be sending the items to the Joplin area on Thursday morning.
  • Go: As soon as Emergency Management officials give us the go ahead, we will be sending clean-up and construction teams to the Joplin area. If you would be willing to be a part of one of these teams, either immediately or in the future, please click on the volunteer link below.

While our hearts are broken for each person who has been touched by this tragedy, we are believing that in the midst of these circumstances, God will bring hope and healing to the people of Southwest Missouri.

We love you much, 

John & Debbie Lindell
Lead Pastors, James River Assembly

Pray

I Love America Celebration

Dear Friends,

We are excited about all that God is doing at James River Assembly. Each and every week, the lives of people are being changed by God’s amazing power!

The Preacher writes in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” God has a time and place for every event and every ministry. One aspect of the James River ministry that has been uniquely blessed is the I Love America Celebration. Through the years, we have seen God use it in a powerful way. Because of the nature of the event, it has been imperative each year for us to seek God’s will concerning whether to host I Love America. We needed His help with everything from weather, to logistics, to safety. As a leadership team, it has been our commitment to only host I Love America if we sensed the grace of the Lord was with us in presenting the event to the community.

Perhaps you have heard the news announcing that the Show Me Music and Arts Festival will be held in mid-June at the same site where we have hosted I Love America for the last 11 years. Due to this event, we would only have one week to prepare the site for the I Love America celebration. For the last several weeks, we have prayerfully considered several options, but have concluded that the limited turnaround time between the two events and the necessary site preparation make it unfeasible for James River to host the I Love America Celebration.

We appreciate the Griesemer family’s willingness to let us use the Springfield Underground site for the last 11 years. They have been exceedingly kind and we are grateful for their generosity.

As well, we want to thank the James River Family for the countless hours you have given through the years to make I Love America such an effective Gospel outreach, and one of the largest fireworks displays in Missouri. Your willingness to serve has blessed us and touched the hearts of thousands of people in the community with the love of Christ.

You might ask, “What does the future hold?” It is our conviction that when God brings one season of life to a close, it is not the end but the beginning of a new season with new opportunities. While we are grateful for all that has happened over the years at I Love America, we believe the best is yet to come and we can’t wait to see what God is going to do next.

We love you much and pray His joy will be yours!

John and Debbie
Lead Pastors, JRA

Copyright ©  2008-2014 John Lindell