|JOYFULLY WORKING TO FULFILL OUR COMMISSION TO START A DISCIPLE-MAKING MOVEMENT THAT RESULTS IN A CHURCH PLANTING MOVEMENT|
For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. “These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range through the whole earth.”
Zech 4:10 (ESV)
But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy,
Ezra 3:12 (ESV)
Greetings Brothers and Sisters!
We just experienced another “boring” month of small beginnings in foundation laying. I want to share some highlights with you.
GOD IS ALLOWING SPIRITUAL WARFARE
Mid-October to Mid-November was a month of pretty steady, continued spiritual warfare. Several things added to our experience. First, we battled sickness for a significant portion of the month. We had another bout with Covid and this kept us from working in the fields the way we would prefer to be working. Second, we saw a continued absence of core team members who have played a significant role in the church plant formation and work. Third, the weight of not being available to minister to my family or our church due to taking on additional hours of work created issues in and strains in both places.
One member who has long been absent brought up his concern over me not being available to serve in all the ways I have been able to in the past. They asked me, “With all that time you are working and doing groups, how are you even able to serve members in need?” I thought it was a good question and a teachable moment. We worked through it, but with the absence of people stepping up to fill the void, there is definitely a noticeable difference in the church and home. Laura and I have been leaning in on Jesus to take care of everything, provide help we are still waiting on, and to help us be content as we wait and live in the weakness allowed in this season. It has been spiritually heavy to not be available when a member is in a crisis or needs help no one else is providing. We feel the weight some of my dearest friends are experiencing as we aren’t able to meet and speak the way we have in the past. But we are still alive and working and waiting knowing what little we are able to do is what God calls us to do int this time. We are trusting in Christ to be enough.
GOD IS OPENING DOORS AND SPREADING THE GOSPEL
God has also been opening new doors to take the gospel to new places. I was asked awhile back to come and lead the Kansas and Western Missouri Association’s Missions Rally. Dan McGee who heads up the association allowed me to seek God on the theme for the event. I sought God in prayer for several weeks and arrived at WE ARE UNASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL. I went and shared what is going on in Minnesota and preached a sermon with the same title and message from Romans 1:14-17. I am hoping it will result in the mobilization of members in Kansas and Western Missouri who take the gospel to their neighborhoods and to the ends of the earth.
I have also been given the gift of favor with people at the gym I’m working in part time. This has opened the door to share the gospel. This week I gave a man who is “spiritual but without a religion” a Bible. He actually asked me for one he could understand because he struggled to understand the one he had in the past. I am also discipling a young man I worked with who said I was at the gym because he “prayed for me to come and disciple him.” Each day I work, I try to show the light of Christ to everyone there, whether they are my co-workers, boss, or a member of the gym.
GOD IS SHOWING ME THINGS ARE HAPPENING AS THEY SHOULD
Each week we got to see little glimpses of what God is doing in spite of how we are stretched, things we can’t take any credit for since we aren’t around when they happen. Isaiah continues to step up and become the leader we saw God is making him. He led the church while I had Covid with only a couple hours notice and also when I was out of town. He has also been leading me through a book he really wanted to turn into a group for the church in the future. It has been a joy to watch him grow and flourish and hear about how God is using him at Teen Challenge in his internship.
My Dad ended up asking to join the church while I was out of town. The members voted to accept him on his statement of faith. God has also been giving me clarity on the work He has for me and how to go forward in the near future as we continue to build. That hasn’t always been easy to see or face, but it has been helpful to have a renewed vision and conviction about the work and who we are here to serve. For instance, I came to see I always end up working with people who have disabilities and suffer from things like mental handicaps. I can’t help but see their struggles and want to help them. I’ve thought about how I need to divide my time away from the needs to go after friends who don’t have those struggles, especially those who might join us and serve them alongside me. But as I thought about it, I watched a man struggle with his hardship, a hardship people who don’t know about it can’t see or begin to understand is out of his control and causing him as much trouble as it may be annoying or inconvenient to them. I knew I couldn’t cut away from being there to serve him and others like him to make friends who are easier to be around. My heart is tethered to people who are really struggling and in need of help. I couldn’t turn it off if I wanted to. And to be honest, I don’t want to. Not because I need to be a savior, but because I love them and want to see them cared for and I am able and willing to care for them. God will have to provide other people who have a heart and ability to do the same because with limited time, I’m committed to staying in the trenches with them.
I’m not the only person who has experienced moments of revelation in this last month. One man in the Thursday morning Bible Study at Freedomworks saw the truth about what really makes up the contents of the gospel. Instead of an experience or promise of heaven on earth as it can so often be preached (health, wealth, respect, promotions, saved marriages, etc), he saw it was about the faithfulness of God to send Jesus to be our savior, to be judged as sinful in our place despite having no sin, and to be crucified in our place. It also includes his foretold resurrection and the promise that He will return the earth to judge all men, living and dead. He also noted seeing he had incorrectly believed bad things don’t happen to faithful Christians. He now saw our experiences don’t necessarily accurately reflect our faith because faithful people will experience hardships, persecution, and pain they did nothing wrong to deserve. My wife grew in her knowledge of how the canon was formed and why we can trust the Bible over all other sources in one of our weekly discipleship meetings. We praise God for these revelations and ask Him for even more!
We even made some progress on some of the home repairs that drove me to pick up extra work. Our vans are both running now. We replaced two toilets that went out. We repaired damage to the ceiling in the kitchen that came as a result of a leak in the bathroom. We are also about to have our roof replaced. We are thankful to God for all the help and provision He has given. We are now working to prepare to replace a window that has mold and leaks, replace our house air conditioning unit, and save up to replace our furnace since we have had multiple people tell us we have one to two years at best.
GOD IS HELPING US ENJOY OUR BORING LIVES
We live pretty boring lives by most American standards. There isn’t much that is glorious to those who live out in the world. We don’t take vacations or go on exotic trips. We don’t usually get away for a weekend or even go to concerts or events. We work to protect and strengthen our marriage, to be parents who know and love their kids each day, to help our kids have daily habits and routines that will allow them to live disciplined lives as adults, to be present and prepared for our jobs in the church, and to keep our promises to those who count on us.
I spend a lot of time studying in the hours no one is awake. I spend a lot of time praying when I am by myself. I spend a lot of time planning and prioritizing. I have as many “Yes” promises as I can make so I spend a lot of time saying I can’t do things. And I spend a lot of time listening to people at regular pre-arranged times. I have habits of hygiene, physical health, mental health, and spiritual health that I work to guard and protect. To some, it is boring. To me, it has proven to be a gift that provides life. God has used it to help us persevere and endure through hardships. Despite feeling stretched, we have also been able to see God protect us and keep us together growing deeper in love with those He has given us and more connected in our church and family with the few who desire to be connected.
We celebrated several birthdays in the last month. These birthdays gave us a chance to see what God is doing in forging a family of misfits. Two of my daughters had a birthday. Felicity turned 15 on the 6th and my oldest, Alyssa, turned 21 today. Laura had a birthday as well. We also celebrated one of our daughter’s friend’s birthdays. She spent a significant portion of the month with us and we got to grow as part of her extended family. We had my father with us for Grandparents Day at school and had friends from our neighborhood, church, and the kids’ school over throughout the month (when we didn’t have Covid). It has been a blessing to live a boring life.
We also continued working through the sermon series and teaching series just as we have been. I worked through several more Twisted Scriptures for sermons as did Isaiah in my absence. I am teaching Acts on Thursday mornings, phrasing our week’s sermon texts in one group on Thursday afternoons. We are reading through a book on Mondays. We are working through a book on sexual purity on Fridays and a New Believer Essential Doctrines study on Friday nights. Laura continues to lead the women through a book on church membership on Friday nights. We will start a new series on a book of the Bible to be announced this week. We are just focused on diligently finishing the things we start. We plod along week after week. And what we see is God provides growth. He even does this in what many believe are boring, normal, non-exciting things. Maybe we can add cool lights or exciting music at some point. Who knows. In the meantime, boring is great!
PLEASE PRAY FOR GOD TO GIVE OUR PEOPLE A HUNGER TO LEARN HOW TO STUDY, NOT JUST READ, THE SCRIPTURES FOR THEMSELVES. ALSO PRAY THEY WILL LEARN HOW TO MOVE BEYOND SELF-FEEDING TO FEEDING OTHERS.
MY ASK: PARTNER WITH US
God has given us a unique ministry.
We serve in a hard part of a hard city.
Overcoming the challenges of poverty, broken homes, incarceration, mental illness, physical illness, and violent crime keeps some groups and individuals from coming to join us to serve here.
I get that.
But it doesn’t have to keep us from reaching the people of North Minneapolis together.
With increased attacks by individuals who believe and teach the tenets I am standing against in the NAR and Word of Faith movements, and the deceitful way they are operating to do so, I need help.
I need prayer support for the spiritual warfare that is ramping up again.
I also need supplies and financial support to be free to evangelize the lost and disciple those who are coming to Christ.
As many of you know, I have picked up two additional jobs to make ends meet. I would like to eliminate at least one of those jobs to reinvest the time in my personal devotional life and the lives of my family and church to remain spiritually healthy. If you would like to assist with this, you can join us by partnering financially. We also need financial partners to help us add some help with administration and child care needs since many of our people are not legally allowed to serve in children’s ministry yet.
We have other needs that range from transportation to interpretation for Spanish speakers. We may not have people yet that have those gifts or assets, but financial support could give us options to serve in these new and growing ways until ministers join us or are raised up through discipleship.
There is a link to give through the BMAA at the bottom of this email in the red and black picture. You can also send funds to assist through the church plant at Freedom Missionary Baptist Church. The mailing address is
Freedom Missionary Baptist Church
c/o Michael Strong
1348 Sheridan Avenue North,
Minneapolis, MN 55411
Thanks for your prayers and partnership.
It is making an eternal difference.
Mike Strong (on behalf of Laura Beth and the kids)