Summer Recap; Growth through Discipleship and Leader Development

In our last episode … The River Church was delving into an ambitious schedule in an effort to reach people with the gospel. And now join us once again as we find our Hero, still on His throne, reigning supreme and having His way in all things while his sidekicks, Michael and Cheryl Johnson and The River Church, limp along and do their best to keep up.

What a year it has been so far!

One major highlight from the spring was celebrating 3 baptisms in May and one salvation in June. What a joy and privilege it was to see God doing a major work in the life of our local Church body. Please be praying for our newly baptized brothers and sister, and for our brand new sister in Christ.

Our Summer Children’s Program was such a wonderful experience this year. Many churches contributed members to help out and we are so grateful. We couldn’t have done it without them! We would like to specifically thank Terrace Heights Baptist Church, Chestnut Street Baptist Church and Helping Hands 4 Christ for sending people every day to help. It was such a beautiful picture of the body of Christ coming together and working in unity to spread the gospel. We had about 60 kids attend and more than 100 people come out for the block party on Friday of that week.

We are so pleased to report that God is still raising up leaders from our local body. Two men from The River Church began seminary at the Pacific Northwest Campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. They feel called by God to be better equipped for whatever God has for them in the future and have followed through by beginning seminary studies. Speaking of, we celebrated Michael’s graduation from seminary in June! He actually has one class to finish up but because of scheduling and a number of other circumstances, he walked and we partied in June. We look forward to him receiving his diploma in December. In the meantime, he and 3 other men are enjoying their 6 hours of commute every Monday to and from the school together. Please be praying that God will allow the two new seminarians to complete their degrees unhindered and that Michael will be able to finish strong.

We have had some wonderful growth in our discipleship groups and have several going right now. I suppose if you’re going to have anything going well in a church, you’d want it to be discipleship, since it directly involves being obedient to the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” I have to admit, that last part is my favorite! Please be praying for these small groups to continue to grow and for the people attending to be transformed by God as they learn more of what it means to be a follower of Christ. Please pray that they would be burdened for their friends and loved ones who don’t know Christ. Please especially pray for the unsaved members of these groups that they would soon see their need for Christ and surrender their lives to Him.

Last Sunday was the first Sunday in the history of The River Church that we had an actual praise team leading us in worship!!! Yay, God!!! A young woman came forward to say she would be willing to play piano so now we have a pianist, 2 singers (Olivia and I!) and Michael leading us all on guitar. It is a small beginning but definitely a move in the right direction! We are still praying for someone else to lead out in worship but are just so thankful for this development.

What our sidekicks have learned so far. . . .

Our Hero, the Heavenly Father, himself, is in no hurry. He has plans that He is seeing through in His own time and in his own way. Many of our plans seem to flop almost as soon as they are birthed, yet God sees to it that His plans come out right every time and people are hearing about and being transformed by the gospel anyway. As a friend prayed recently, there are no question marks with God. He always sees the whole picture and has it all figured out. He might even have some big, old, red bows tied on just for grins. (His grins, we always seem to get tangled up in God’s big, red bows!) His plans go forward and are never in vain, his sidekicks are just trying to keep up.

Please keep the following upcoming events in your prayers:

  • Covenant Service to celebrate our official launch as a church (TBD)
  • Marriage Retreat in October
  • Joint Community Thanksgiving Service with Crossroads Community Church (another local church plant) in November

Thank you so much for your faithfulness in prayer!

Michael and Cheryl Johnson

Urgent Prayer Need

Today we are engaging in the most intense period of outreach The River Church encounters all year long. This weekend we have the potential to impact hundreds of souls for Jesus as people come from all over the Yakima valley to Moxee Hop Festival. We will be here on Friday and Saturday, sharing the good news of Jesus through service and generosity. Several of our people will be helping supervise the children’s area of the festival, while the rest support our booth, making balloon animals and signing children up for our summer children’s program.

Speaking of summer children’s program, our biggest children’s event of the year begins Monday, August 10. Our theme this year is “The Great Campout: Learning to Follow Jesus.” For four nights we will share the good news of Jesus through songs, crafts, snacks, games, and story. Children will hear how Jesus is our Leader, our Light, and our Living Water. They will also learn how the Bible is God’s Word and is our guide to knowing Jesus and God’s design for their lives. At the end of the week we will host a “Party in the Park.” Last year we had 70 children at our summer children’s program and more than 300 came to our week-end party. We are praying for 100 children and more than 500 at our party this year!

Here are some specific ways you can pray for us right now!

  1. Pray that God will be glorified as we serve, love, and share with our community.
  2. Pray that we will have wisdom and insight as we finalize preparation for “The Great Campout.”
  3. Pray that the transportation for the Moxee Hop Festival parade and “Party in the Park” will be adequate.
  4. Pray that dozens of children and families will hear and respond to the good news of Jesus.
  5. Pray that the name of Jesus will be honored in our community over the next week and beyond.
  6. Pray that we will have the finances necessary to generously serve our community this week. Our estimated budget is around $4,000.

In addition, please continue to pray for these needs of The River Church.

  1. Pray that God will raise up a music leader for us.
  2. Pray that God will send faithful workers to join us in the ministry.
  3. Pray that God will raise up men for leadership in the church.
  4. Pray that God will give each of us boldness in proclaiming the good news of Jesus and making disciples who make disciples!

You can give by clicking here, or by going to http://theriverchurchmoxee.com and clicking GIVE.

Gathering, Service, Meeting Place, and Prayer Needs

Happy Spring from The River Church!

Spring has sprung here in the Yakima Valley! The tulips and daffodils are coming up beautifully and the trees are starting to green up. I even wore short sleeves as I walked the girls to school this morning. What more could you ask for? Well, I’ll tell you what more, prayer!

As most of you know, we had our very first worship gathering as The River Church March 30. It was a wonderful time of worship and celebration of all that the Lord has done. I would like to set up an Ebenezer stone as Samuel did in 1 Samuel 7:12 and say, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” And he has!

We have been adding several more names to the prayer team this month. We are well over half-way to our goal of at least 200. You can join our prayer team by clicking “Contact.” Be sure to let us know how you prefer to be contacted.

We are also about to add another family to the core team! We have been prayerfully exploring how we can partner with a local ministry called Helping Hands 4 Christ to better reach our community with the gospel. They are doing some fantastic work! We have been getting some logistics together such as insurance and non-profit status. Not the most exciting news, I’ll admit, but it needs to be done and every little step is important and is evidence of God’s grace and mercy throughout this whole journey. Thus far the LORD has helped us!

Our prayer needs are very similar to last month. We are still praying for more prayer partners. We are praying for 4-6 Missional Communities to be started over the next several months. We are beginning with our core team this month and will hopefully multiply out from there. Please be praying for the core team as we step out in faith and make new connections with our neighbors to invite them into community in Christ. We are all out of our comfort zones and need the Holy Spirit to give us boldness!

We are also praying for more discipling relationships to be formed. We are especially praying for more connections with lost people around us. Please pray for several individuals and families we have been reaching out to and inviting to join us at The River.

As you know, meeting the needs of people around us is one of the best ways to reach people with the gospel. We are prayerfully considering how we can best do that here in Moxee. Each community is unique and each community has unique needs. We are more than happy to bring cookies to the teachers at our local school and to our local fire department, but we’re hoping to go a little deeper into what would be most meaningful to the people of Moxee. Can you please pray that God will show us very specific, unique ways to meet needs around us that will show Moxee that we mean business and we care about individuals, families and the community around us? Pray that God would begin opening doors to His gospel and we would be bold and faithful to share it at every opportunity.

We are exploring different options for places to meet for our worship gatherings. Our first choice is Moxee Elementary. Please be praying for us as we apply to reserve that space,and if God has another place for us, that he would make that clear.

Please also continue to pray that God would raise up more financial partners. Financial partners are critical to obtaining the resources we need to operate, stay afloat and do ministry. If God is leading you to be a financial partner with us click “Give.” I am happy to say that God came through in some amazing ways last month in this department! I wish everyone could see God working in the way that we have while on this journey. It’s been the scariest thing we’ve ever done but by far the most rewarding. Nothing has been sweeter than watching Jesus take care of us. It has also given us new meaning to “our daily bread!” God is faithful! Thus far the LORD has helped us!

I suppose that is all for now. Please feel free to contact us with any prayer requests you may have. It is our pleasure and privilege to lift each of you up in prayer.

God bless,

Cheryl

 

First Worship Gathering, Commissioning, Prayer, and Missional Communities

Friends, there’s a lot going on at The River Church! Let’s see if I can summarize a few highlights.

1. Last Sunday, March 23, we had a fantastic Commissioning Service with our partners at Terrace Heights Baptist Church. Four families were officially sent out from THBC for the work of planting The River Church in Moxee, WA. Of course, we were added to that group and shared in the blessing! The three men from those families shared how God had called them to join the church plant and how much the THBC family has meant to them over the years. We closed the Commissioning Service with the signing of a covenant of partnership between the sent families and THBC. Then the church laid hands on us and prayed. It was a beautiful experience we will never forget!

2. Today (yes, today!) we have a group of college students coming to Moxee to prayer-walk through our neighborhoods. They come from CWU and Chestnut Street Baptist Church in Ellensburg, WA and are led by my brother, Jeremy. Pray as we pray through the neighborhoods, and pray that the Holy Spirit will open the hearts of every family in Moxee to joyfully receive the Good News of Jesus. Pray also that we will have boldness to take every opportunity we are given to share the Story that has the power to transform lives, families, and communities.

3. Now for the most obvious prayer request: We have our first worship gathering this Sunday, March 30. This is one of the most significant moments in the story of The River Church. We’ll be meeting in our home (scary!), which I hope will remind us of the true nature of the church. It is not in a building, or a scheduled event, or an organization. The church is people whose lives have been transformed by the Good News of Jesus into a community that God uses to bring His Story to all of creation. Yes, there is so much more to the church, but if we miss that we are God’s people on mission, we miss the Great Commission: make disciples who make disciples! Pray that as we meet we will be empowered by the Spirit to be on mission in Moxee.

4. Finally, pray that God will enable us to form Missional Communities, led by the Spirit and centered on the Good News of Jesus. Our goal is to establish 4-6 new Missional Communities throughout Moxee within the next couple of months. We have families and homes in which to gather. Pray that we will have a vision for sharing the Story and that we will be bold in building relationships with those who are far from God.

My friends, I love you and am praying for you! Your partnership with us cannot be quantified. Please do not hesitate to contact us and share your prayer concerns with us. We want to hear from you and know how God has called you to partner with us. Click Contact to let us know.

Grace and peace,

Michael

March Video Update

In this video we’re asking you to pray for these things:

(1) Pray as we start Missional Communities throughout Moxee.

(2) Pray for the Commissioning Service with Terrace Heights Baptist Church this Sunday, March 23.

(3) Pray as we have our first Worship Gathering on Sunday, March 30.

(4) Pray as we build relationships in the community. Pray for openness to hear and boldness to speak the Good News of Jesus.

Thank you for partnering with us for the sake of the Gospel in the Yakima Valley!

Stand by… [UPDATED]

[UPDATE: The link to online giving is up and running! Thanks for your patience, friends!]

We’re experiencing some technical difficulties with our link to online giving. We should have a solution soon so thank you for bearing with us!

In addition to online giving you can send a check to the address listed under “Contact” and “Give.”

Thank you to a good friend who notified us of the broken link. If you notice any other technical problems on our site send us a message!

How Should We Pray?

If you’ve ever asked that question, you’re not alone. An Amazon search of the word “prayer” yielded 49,931 results in the category of Books, Religion and Spirituality, alone. The question of prayer is often asked.

Even Jesus’ disciples asked about prayer. In Luke 11:1 they asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” They wanted to know, just as we do, how to pray and what to pray.

We’ve asked for prayer many times, so I wanted to share some ways you can pray specifically for us. As our church planting team was preparing to meet recently I thought about what we should pray. Three verses of Scripture came to my mind and have become the guide for our prayers this week.

James 1:5: Wisdom in planning

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (ESV)

It is no secret that we are first time church planters. I find myself asking for wisdom every day as we face new challenges. So, we ask God, who promises to give generously without reproach. He doesn’t withhold wisdom because we’re messed up. And since I’m pretty messed up that is a huge comfort.

Luke 10:2: Workers for the harvest

And he said to them, “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.” (ESV)

Luke recorded Jesus’ words to his disciples on the eve of sending out 72 workers to prepare people for Jesus’ arrival. Going into the harvest and praying for workers for the harvest are two sides of the same coin. How can we pray for workers without the obedience to go? So, we go and we ask God for workers who will partner with us to reap a harvest of souls in the Yakima valley.

John 6:44: Welcoming the Gospel

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (ESV)

Jesus taught us about the essential work of God in the hearts of all who believe in him. In our own effort we cannot save anyone. It requires a supernatural work of God by his Spirit so that a person welcomes the message of the Gospel. So, we ask God to open the hearts of our friends and neighbors who have yet to receive salvation in Jesus.

Wisdom in planning. Workers for the harvest. Welcoming the Gospel. You can pray with us for these three things. We need your prayers as we desire to transform lives, families, and communities with the Good News of Jesus.

(We are always in need of partners. To find out more click “Partners,” or “Give.” And don’t forget to click “Contact” to tell us how you will partner with us and to share prayer requests.)

Front Row Seats

[This is part 3 of the article “The Joys, Fears, and Faith of Church Planting” which Cheryl wrote a couple of months ago.

You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.]

With all the uncertainty, all the fear, all the doubts, why would we do this? Or at least, isn’t there someone more qualified? The answer to that last question is “yes” for sure! But the answer to the first question takes a little more time to answer.

As I mentioned before, God has extended an invitation to us to join him in the work he is doing in Yakima. Who are we to reject an invitation from the King? The only appropriate response to the summons of the King is to show up where and when you are told with humility and gratitude. Failure to do so is risking far more than the risk incurred through obedience.

We have been offered front row seats to see God’s glory through lives and whole communities being transformed. Perhaps our lives will also be among those who are transformed! We have been offered the chance to see miracles happen, over and over again. How do I know? Because we will have to experience miracles in order for this whole thing to work out! If God doesn’t do some miracles, there’s no way we will get there and be sustained there.

Finally, we are going because we’re not willing to give up those front row seats. If we don’t go, God will still bring transformation to individual lives and to communities in Yakima. He will still do one miracle after another. He will still get all the glory and it will be amazing! But he will do it through someone else. It will be someone else who is just as scared, just as weak and has just as many excuses not to go as I do but will be slightly more obedient. And while I don’t “feel” ready for what we’re doing and I have no idea what is about to happen, I’m definitely not ready to give my seat to someone else. I hope that qualifies as holy selfishness!

I take great comfort in knowing that ultimately, it’s God’s reputation on the line. Faithfulness, trust and obedience on my part, through God’s grace, have a part to play, but it is God who builds his church. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says, “’And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’” (emphasis added). He makes it grow. He is responsible for it. We get to participate in joyful anticipation of what he is going to do. I think it’s going to be quite a ride. And like all the best roller coasters, there will be amazing highs, stomach churning lows, twists and turns galore. But through all the highs and lows, I am trusting God to get us through. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

“For whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:7-9, ESV).

[Be sure to click “Follow THE RIVER CHURCH” (in the upper right column) to receive email updates from the blog. Don’t forget to visit https://theriverchurch.co/2013/12/31/we-want-to-hear-from-you/ to complete a contact form. We really do want to hear from you!]

Signs and Wondering

[This is part 2 of the article “The Joys, Fears, and Faith of Church Planting” which Cheryl wrote a couple of months ago.

You can read part 1 here and part 3 here.]

The prospect of church planting has brought me face to face with what’s really inside of me. In what am I actually putting my faith and trust? Where is my hope? In the Lord or something else? I had been asking God over and over again to give us a sign and show us we are on the right track. Then the Lord brought to mind the passage in Matthew 12:38-39 that says,

“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him saying, ‘Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.’ But he answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.’”

The scribes and Pharisees were seeking proof that Jesus was who he said he was by miraculous signs and wonders and Jesus called them an “evil and adulterous generation” because of it. There’s nothing wrong with asking for guidance and direction and a good, old-fashioned neon sign, but I desired those things more than I desired the One who is able to give them — so that I could find comfort and hope in them and not Jesus; so that I would know we are on the right track and everything would be okay. But Jesus’ call is the same today as it was to those scribes and Pharisees in the Bible. It’s a call to faith. Faith in Christ alone.

As God gently but firmly strips away the things I have been putting my faith and hope in apart from him, he’s been replacing those things with more and more faith. More of Himself. I’ve been getting closer to God and experiencing him in ways I never have before and don’t believe I could any other way. He has taught me to keep my eyes on Jesus like never before so when the vultures of doubt start circling I can hear him speaking truth and faith to me.

“Fear not for I am with you, even to the end of the age.”

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink. . .is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”

And, one of my favorites,

“The Lord is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

If there was ever a girl who needed to be quieted with the love of God, it’s this girl!

Getting ready to plant a church has taught me the meaning of putting on the full armor of God. The enemy loves to exploit my fears, doubts and weaknesses. (And he especially likes to do it in the middle of the night.) Where do you think those vultures come from? He sees the armor rattling and is just waiting for me to put it down so he can pounce. For me, putting on the full armor of God has meant going to bed at night with my Bible right beside me and key verses that God has brought to my attention written on index cards so I am ready in the middle of the night, if needs be, to take up the shield of faith and start wielding the sword of the Spirit.

to be continued in part 3, “Front Row Seats”

[Be sure to click “Follow THE RIVER CHURCH” (in the upper right column) to receive email updates from the blog. Don’t forget to visit https://theriverchurch.co/2013/12/31/we-want-to-hear-from-you/ to complete a contact form. We really do want to hear from you!]