Author Archives: James Mann

Sphere of Influence

Back to Reach | Devotion #5: Sphere of Influence
James Mann | Children’s Director

This idea of “Reach, Gather, and Grow” has always been an interesting idea to me. Too often, I see people reaching Grow and stopping. Why is going back to Reach so important to me? Quite simply, someone going back to Reach is what brings the unsaved through the door. It can be so simple for us to reach Grow, stay there, and focus solely on our relationship with God. This is not God’s plan for us, and we are selfish by thinking otherwise. 

Matthew 9:37-38 says, “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’” 

We should be viewing the idea of going back to Reach as a blessing and an honor to be a part of, not a burden. I want you to take a moment and think about how you came to the Lord. When was the first time you heard someone preach God’s Word? Some of you reading this may have been born and raised in the church. For those who were not or those who stepped away from the church, you probably came back due to someone going back to Reach. Reach is simply getting the Word of God out to the nonbelievers. With this thought process, you could be going back to Reach by just inviting someone to a church activity. This is why we have our Reach events for all age groups. 

As the Children’s Director of our Goodrich location, I believe it is crucial to teach children at a young age what this idea of going back to Reach looks like as well as what they can do to be a part of it. I tell the children that as a mid-20’s male, my Reach is limited. I can make phone calls, write emails, send text messages, and talk to families all day, but I am just one person. If they were to reach out to those that they already have relationships with, it is more meaningful, and they are more likely to come. The same goes for us adults. If we all step out of our comfort zones and invite those that we have relationships with to hear God’s Word, we are doing what God commanded us to do. Like the verse above tells us, there are a lot of people out there who have not heard God’s Word, and they are just waiting. We need those who can and will go out into the world and deliver the Good News. That is the purpose of us going back to Reach.

Growing with Knowledge

Grow | Devotion #3: Growing with Knowledge
James Mann | Children’s Director

Growing in God is undoubtedly the most important thing one can do to develop in God personally. Growing takes you from someone who just attends a Gathering and bumps you up to the next level. For me personally, growing has been furthering my knowledge and relationship with God. In 2017, I graduated with my undergraduate degree from Oakland University. Immediately, I joined Moody Theological Seminary in Plymouth, Michigan. It is not my goal to just have an extra piece of paper to hang on the wall. I truly believed that the next step for my personal growth was to study God at the graduate level. It has been a game changer on how much closer I have gotten to God. Going into my master’s program, I had the mindset that I knew everything there was to know, and this degree would be a breeze. I sat through my first class, and my eyes were truly opened to how little I knew about Him. I remember sitting there and not understanding every tenth word my professor used. It was extremely discouraging but humbling at the same time.  

James 3:17 (NIV) says, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 1:5 (NIV) adds, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Knowledge is an important thing; there is no arguing that. Since God is and should be the center and most important thing in our lives, we should be centering our knowledge around Him. The Bible tells us He will give us this knowledge if we ask. That is simply what I did, and He opened the doors for me to have access to the knowledge achievable in a graduate program. 

I will never tell someone they should not go to school. I am a very big proponent of schooling and think it is something in which everyone should find value. What I will say is that depending on what stage of life you are in, God may open a door that might be different than mine. There are many ways to grow in your knowledge of Him. Your avenue could be one of our Growth Communities, a discipleship program, or maybe it is schooling. Whatever path you choose, ask God to show you the way. A crucial point to add is that once He shows you how to grow, do not ignore Him. Instead, act on it.

Stop Hiding

Forget It | Devotion #3: Stop Hiding
James Mann | Children’s Director

Anyone who knows me knows I grew up in a Christ-centered house. In 2005, my family and I moved from Michigan to Florida. Christ started moving from the center of my life as it became difficult to find a church to call home. Before I knew it, God was completely out of my life. I still prayed before meals and bed, but I was just saying a rehearsed prayer just to appease my parents. I was dead in my faith. For the longest time, there was this skeleton in my closet. I moved back to Michigan in 2011 and began to try this whole church and God thing again. I did not want anyone to know about this hidden past of living in the world. I avoided telling anyone and in return, became even more lost in the world. 

I went on an entire year like this. It was not until a year into going back to church that God made things clear for me. Luke 8:17-18 challenged me, “For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.” For me, God was telling me that all my sins of the past would come to light eventually. If I bring them to light, then I can grow and truly start on the path He has chosen for me. 

Something we need to remember is that everyone has something in their life they are trying to hide from the world. Some skeletons are larger than others, but they need to be shared. The only way we can leave our skeletons behind us is by making our past known. Then, instead of hiding these skeletons we can leave them behind us and continue down the path God has chosen for us. As believers, the most important thing we can do right now is pray for God to show us what these skeletons are that we are carrying around and trying to hide from the world. Ask Him just to strengthen you and allow you to bring them to light and leave them behind. If we allow ourselves to do this, then, and only then, are we able to lighten our load and run after the desires that God has for us in our lives.

Fasting for Spiritual Guidance and Knowledge

Fasting • Devotion #3: Fasting for Spiritual Guidance and Knowledge
James Mann | Children’s Director

B.B. King, a famous blues musician, once said, “Education is the one thing that no one can take away from you.” I firmly believe in the importance of education and overall knowledge. I always went into my educational career caring less about the degree at the end but focused more on the knowledge gained throughout the journey. As someone who has been in school for twenty years of my life, I still believe this to be true. Most people will think that I am going to continue this devotional by talking about King Solomon, who is known as the wisest man in the Bible, but that is not the case. In Acts chapter 14, we come across Paul and Barnabas at Lystra. In verses 19-22, we see Paul and Barnabas going all around the city and preaching the Gospel in order to make disciples. He attempts to encourage them and push them to keep moving through the struggles of the world to reach Heaven. The interesting part happens in verse 23, “And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”

The reason that this is such a powerful section is that Paul and Barnabas did not lean on their own understandings to make these choices. Instead, they fasted and took this time to pray and ask God for guidance on the decision at hand. This is without a doubt one of the best points for fasting. We need to know that our understanding is limited as human beings. We have a God who will help us during these times of need. What we need to do is show how important it is by going into a fast and taking that time to focus on God and His desires. While no one can take your knowledge away from you, not everyone can give it to you. Many things in our life can only be explained and made clear to us by God.

We need to understand that all of these things are only possible because of the death of Jesus, whom they were just with not long ago. Before we required a priest as a mediator, now we have this direct access through Christ to our Heavenly Father.

Washing your Hands  

Radioactive | Devotion #3: Washing your Hands
James Mann | Children’s Director

In a household, if one person is sick, everyone is likely to get sick. You are near everyone and unless you quarantine yourself, you may spread the illness. Most of the time, sin is brought into the household by one of the family members. Once it is brought in to the home, it is likely to spread to everyone, and before you know it, your household is infected. I may not be a parent or a head of a household, but I have been in a household long enough to see this happen first hand.

 As a God-loving household, we are constantly under attack from the enemy. The devil is using everything in his arsenal to tear down our walls and take control. Often, he tries to make it seem like the grass may be greener on the other side. When in reality, the grass is not any greener at all. In fact, the grass is dead and infectious. In 1 Peter 5:8-9, it says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” We live in a world that temptation is around every single corner. You can barely drive to work and back without seeing or hearing something trying to tempt you. As believers, we must be checking ourselves constantly. All it takes is to be exposed to the tiniest amount of the infection before we become infected ourselves. Once we get infected by the world, we then go home and expose our families to it. The scariest thought to me is that babies have lower immune systems. If we carry the infection, and they grow up within the infected radius, they will contract this disease and not even know it, because it is how they grew up. 

God has called every single one of His followers to not be of this world. Instead, we must rise and fight against this infection that the enemy is trying so hard to get us. We cannot afford to take this thought lightly. Our families and their lives are way too important to expose them to this. Unfortunately, it only takes a father to be unfaithful to his wife one time, a wife to try something to numb the pain one time, a child to try and “fit in” one time, and then the whole family is destroyed. It is not easy to avoid the enemy and his temptations. If it were easy, we would not see families everywhere completely engulfed in this disease. We could easily be the single vessel to bring this into our family. We need to remain strong during our lives. We need to ask God daily to provide us with the tools to go through this world that is trying so hard to bring us down.

“In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57

Office: 8393 E. Holly Rd. Holly, MI 48442 | 248.328.0490 |

Copyright © 2016 The River Church. All Rights Reserved.