Category Archives: Reach Gather Grow

Fervent Stewards

Back to Reach | Devotion #6: Fervent Stewards
Justin Dean | Student Director 

When it came to church, serving was what my family did. Truthfully, it sometimes felt like all we did. I can not tell you how many chairs I have had to stack throughout my time in church. Growing up, I never truly understood the point of serving. When I was a child, I blamed my parents for staying around church talking for too long. In middle school, I thought it was because we were just trying to be nice people. When I high school, I realized it was just my dad using us as free labor. As I began to spend more time coming into my own and taking a look at what biblical serving looked like, I realized it was more about my heart while serving than anything else.

Take a look with me at 1 Peter 4:8-10, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

It took me a while to truly grasp the reason for and importance of service to people. I did not get it, and that shaped the way I served. I served with no purpose, no drive, and without fervency or understanding. I want to take a second to break down this passage of Scripture. There is a great picture in this verse of why and how we should serve.

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly…” What does this actually mean? People often talk about love, but no one ever clearly defines it. It is left as this amorphous, impractical, abstract ideal that we do not know how to implement into our lives. Now I am not going to spend time trying to define it (I will leave that to someone with the Pastor title), but I do want to look at how we can use it practically. I think the key to that is the word earnestly, or a word I think fits the Greek a little better, fervently. It is the idea of enthusiastically and passionately loving others. When we show people love, by serving them, giving them compliments, or by being kind, are we doing so with enthusiasm and passion? Do we dread doing it, or are we sitting on the edge of our seats excited to show them love and care the way our God has shown it to us? 

“…use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” As humans, we have natural giftings. Some are wise teachers; others are fiercely compassionate. The way we serve can look drastically different yet, in the end, achieves the same goal – to help point people to the grace of God. As God’s people, we are stewards of a multitude of different things, but above all, we are stewards of God’s grace in our lives. As such, we need to serve with that in mind. We are showing that grace to those we are serving and our service needs to be with that same fervent love that God graciously showed us. 

Ultimately, we serve at the River to see people come to know the grace we know as followers of Christ. Everything we do, in word or deed, should reflect that goal as stewards of Christ. We serve, together, unified, with our giftings to point people to the grace of God, that they may seek Christ as their Savior. I encourage you if you are not currently serving, to join us in serving our Lord.

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.

Work Out Your Gifting

Back to Reach | Devotion #4: Work Out Your Gifting
Pat Rowland | Locations & Development Pastor

Recently I sat with a young man who felt God’s calling to be a Pastor, and he asked me, “How do you know if you are the right fit for a ministry position?” He was asking about getting hired to do one of the various staff positions at a church. I do not consider myself old, but I have been working in ministry for many years now. This young man was just getting started; therefore, is still working out his gifting as we all had to do.  

When you are new to your faith or looking to start serving in a church, you do not know what you do not know. What I mean, is you are very excited about your faith, and you want to serve. That enthusiasm and energy are highly needed in any ministry and volunteer role. God has given you a gift or gifts, and as you use them, you start to learn more about yourself. As an experienced Pastor, I know more today about how God has wired me and where my strengths start and stop. I have a good idea as to what I can do and what I cannot and should not do. Like this young man, I did not know that in the beginning. You will not know that either until you start exercising your serving gifts. Over the years, I have had as many experiences that showed me what I should not do as I have had that showed me this is who God wired me to be. For example, in my early days of following Christ, I wanted to sing until I actually did it in front of the little church I was attending. God helped work out my gifting by saying that it is not where you need to serve. It was terrible and embarrassing. I cannot believe I even admitted that to you all. Today, when people ask me if I sing, I reply, “No one wants to hear that, trust me.” 

For almost 30 years, I have done things that I know are not my gifting, and I have been in roles where I believe it is what God has gifted me to do. I would not have discovered what I am meant to do if I did not try and let God show me what I am not created to do. That is how God has worked out my gifting. 

Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV) says, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

Serving in ministry is a key part of your spiritual development. It is not about what you get from it as much as it is what you bring to the ministry. However, a by-product is that you will grow in your faith as you serve. We are blessed to be part of a church with many opportunities for you to work out your gifting. My advice to that young pastor is the same to you, “Start serving and start figuring out what God has gifted you to do and not do.” As you serve, you will get to know what you need to know about yourself and God’s unique gifting in you. How? Here are a few thoughts. Please note this is not an exhaustive list.

First, God can speak through affirmation from others. God will allow the voice of others to affirm your ability in the gift you are “working out.” Second, God can speak through the joy you experience in serving. What we do in our jobs, we get a paycheck for our effort. As we serve, we get an eternal reward and sense of joy that we gave of ourselves using our gifting. Third, God can speak through more opportunities to use that gifting for God’s glory. God will continue to bring you into those spaces to use that gift. Finally, seek honest feedback from those leading in the ministry you are serving, and allow them to be part of working out your gifting. 

I want to encourage you to pray about serving, but do more than just pray, start working out your gifting by serving somewhere today! The sooner you start, the sooner you will be on your way to knowing God’s true gifting in your life.  

Sake of the Gospel

Back to Reach | Devotion #3: Sake of the Gospel
John Rigg | Assistant to the Reach Pastor

James Fell Aker was born in 1871 and was an active evangelist until his death in 1986. I will do the math for you; he was 115. At the age of 105, Aker was still preaching crusades as far away as Japan! Aker was able to share the Gospel for over 97 years and was known as a “Fire and Brimstone” style Gospel preacher. I know the term “Fire and Brimstone” has fallen out of favor these days, but I have come to realize that in most cases, guys that fall into this category are typically just extremely passionate about the sharing of the Gospel!

In 1933, Aker recalled a time when he was sick and was taken to the hospital for surgery, “The doctors said I had passed away. I was rolled into the dead room.” A nurse, who happened to go into the morgue, noticed Aker’s eyes moving; and he was revived.

So, what drives a man like James Aker to continually share the Gospel all the days of his life? What is it that motivated him, even with death knocking at the door? I believe Aker did what he did, for the same reasons that the Apostle Paul did what he did. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NKJV), “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now, this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.”

Notice how many times in these verses that Paul uses the phrase “that I might win.” Six times Paul states that the reason he became “all things to all men” was for the “gospel’s sake.” But what does it mean, “doing something for the Gospel’s sake?” Paul says that his reason for sharing the Gospel was “that I may be partaker of it with you.”

Men like Aker and the Apostle Paul realized that sharing the Gospel with more people meant more people would share in the benefits of it. They deeply cared about those that needed to hear it!

Hearing and receiving the Good News of Jesus’ substitutionary death frees a person from the guilt and the penalty brought about by his sinful nature. This is news that was never meant to stop with the recipient.

Paul stated, “I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more.” In what way could we serve someone today for the sake of the Gospel? How might we engage in relationships other than those who already know about the Good News?

The meaning of the word “serve” means to furnish or supply someone with something they need. Are we ready to become “all things to all men, that (we) might by all means save some?”

I pray this is us, “for the gospel’s sake.”

Jesus in Disguise

Back to Reach | Devotion #2: Jesus in Disguise
Gareth Volz | Senior 55+ Director

In Matthew 25:31-40, Jesus tells us how He values service. We are told in this passage that when Jesus comes to earth again as King of kings and Lord of lords in glory with all His angels, He will sit on His glorious throne and reign forever. He will gather all the nations before Him and separate those who put their faith in Him from those who rejected Him. He will judge both groups. Those who rejected Him will be banished from His presence. Those who accepted His grace by faith and became His children will be judged for the works they did for Him after their salvation.

Jesus said in these verses that when we serve others, we serve Him. He says in verse 35:

“I was hungry, and you gave me food;
I was thirsty, and you gave me drink;
I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.” 

He goes on to say in verse 36:

“I was naked, and you clothed me;
I was sick, and you visited me;
I was in prison, and you came to me.”

In verses 37-39, the righteous asked:
When did we see you hungry and gave you food?
When did we see you thirsty and gave you drink?
When were you a stranger and we welcomed you?
When did we see you naked and clothe you?
When were you sick and we visited you?
When were you in prison and we came to you?

Jesus responded in verse 40 that when we did it to these the least of His brothers, we did it to Him.

So, let me ask you, how are you serving Jesus today? There are many opportunities to serve our Lord both within and outside the church. Here are some various ministry opportunities within the church:

  • You can serve Jesus as a greeter at the door on Sunday, sharing a smile and letting them know how glad we are that they came to worship with us.
  • You can serve Jesus as an usher, assisting folks in finding a seat and in the worship of giving.
  • You can serve Jesus as part of the worship team, leading God’s people in praise and worship.
  • You can serve Jesus in the nursery taking care of little ones so parents can focus on worshipping Him.
  • You can serve Jesus by teaching God’s Word, whether to children, teens, young adults, couples, or senior saints.
  • You can serve Jesus by being part of the prison ministry.
  • You can serve Jesus by being part of the recovery ministry.
  • You can serve Jesus by visiting the sick, whether in the hospital, a nursing facility, or their home.
  • You can serve Jesus by leading or hosting a Growth Community.
  • You can serve Jesus by helping in special outreach events like Sunday at the Fair, the Passion Play, Men’s or Ladies’ Retreats, and Wednesdays at the Park.
  • You can serve Jesus by praying for others.

Outside the church we can serve Jesus in para-church ministries like Bible Study Fellowship, Campus Crusade for Christ, serving meals to the homeless at places like Grace Centers of Hope, and sharing God’s love with your neighbors, fellow workers, friends, and family.

What we need to remember is that when we share God’s love with others by serving them, Jesus says we are serving Him. In that final judgment, when Jesus is on His throne in all His glory, He wants to honor you for what you did for and to Him. If you are already serving, keep pushing forward. If you are not serving, ask Jesus to show you where He wants you to serve Him. 

There is great joy in serving Jesus – and great reward. What an honor it will be to hear Jesus say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your Master” (Matthew 25:21).

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

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