a note out to Westpoint

by jason c dukes on February 9th, 2012

Hey Westpoint family! Hope 2012 has started with as much hopefulness and expectancy as you anticipated. More than anything I pray that you are sensing the nearness of God and His love for you that secures you no matter what unfolds in the coming months.

I wanted to send out a note that I know is long (kind of like one of my Sunday teachings) and that I am asking you please to TAKE SOME FOCUSED TIME TO PRAYERFULLY READ IN FULL. Hopefully, as we interact in the coming weeks around the content of this note, we will gain great clarity about where we are going TOGETHER as a Westpoint family. There are certainly a few elements of our "next steps" under current discussion with our Vision Team, including some focusing of our gathering elements and our overall communication. But overall, there are some real powerful stories of learning and living the ways of Jesus among our church family, the Church of West Orange, and beyond.

In order to help folks who want to have a good summary to start with or at least to give you an idea of where this book, I mean, email is going, here's an outline:

SUMMARY OUTLINE
  • 1. our navigational point for 2012 - listen, learn, and love TOGETHER
  • 2. would you like to be on an intercessory prayer team?
  • 3. are you Reading God's Story together with Westpoint and five other "Church of West Orange" church families?
  • 4. are you simply living loved - believing God loves you - and loving the people In your daily pathways of life - that they may believe that God loves them?
  • 5. are you loving locally? (Matthew's Hope, East Winter Garden, SASHAs)?
  • 6. are you loving globally? (Ethiopia, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Zambia, and Montreal)?
  • 7. three questions we'd like to hear from you about!!!

Please don't miss those three specific questions at the end either. Your response to those questions will be so very helpful for our pastoral team as we attempt to equip and encourage the ways that we are loving one another as well as loving our neighbors (all those we encounter in our pathways of daily life) and the nations.

Here we go! :-)


If you have been in worship gathering this month, you have most likely heard a phrase that is the "navigational point" for us this year. In case you haven't been there or just simply missed it, I wanted to share it with you here. Our focus since our inception has been and will continue to be an ongoing imperative, since it is the purpose Jesus gave to His followers before He ascended to heaven - to "make disciples." This was the navigational point in 2011 that we unpacked over the course of the year thus shaping our teaching focus and ministry emphasis. We pray that our centering in on this new phrase below for 2012 will unite us as a church family like never before.

In 2012, we hope to listen, learn, and love TOGETHER.


LISTEN _ we have always stressed the significance of "praying without ceasing" as Paul in 1st Thessalonians instructed the believers in Thessalonicae to do. May we continue to grow as a people who live daily in communication with God in this way. This year, however, we hope that we will pray more TOGETHER, watching the impact that specific intercession for one another, for our neighbors and the nations, and for unity around mission will have among us and beyond us.

So, here's what we need from you - if you believe that God is leading you to give energy and effort into a PRAYER TEAM that will lead our church family in this way, please simply reply to this email so that we can begin to get that team in motion.


LEARN _ the root meaning of the word "disciple" is "LEARNER." We have tried to emphasize this thought of living as a learner of Jesus and His ways since our beginnings eight years ago.

Understanding that we as disciples of Jesus are "learners" inspires us daily to fall back away from the cliff that is our selfishness and insecurity into the security of the One who loved us first and desires that we spend our lives exploring the greater and greater depths of His love. Understanding that we as disciples of Jesus are "learners" encourages us toward a lifelong journey with Jesus studying and questioning and gaining wisdom about the big story of God preserved for us in the Bible. Understanding that we as disciples of Jesus are "learners" moves us beyond thinking we could never love like He loves toward trusting that His Spirit can teach us over this lifetime how to love one another graciously and even love our enemies. Understanding that we as disciples of Jesus are "learners" emboldens us to actually make disciples (other "learners") of Jesus as we are going in the daily rhythms of our lives.

And why does it embolden us? Because we begin to realize that Jesus did not intend for us to read the Bible or read a book on our own or participate in a study with a group just to be more learn-ED, so that knowing so much we could then go confidently imparting all that we know. No, that is a "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" sort of pursuit. Rather, He intended us to be a learn-ER, so that we could learn and live His ways with others. That is a "tree of life" pursuit, and we grow day after day in confidence because of the love and grace that has been imparted to us. His ways then begin to become rhythms in our daily. We are not just becoming learned about a concept that makes us smarter than others, rather, we are becoming learners of a God Whose love redeems us from our selfish pursuits making us lovers with others.

So, this year we are encouraging people to be "Reading God's Story" TOGETHER, that we might be inspired, encouraged, moved, and emboldened toward trusting that we are loved and loving one another as we have been loved. "By this all will know that We are His disciples, if we have love for one another" (John 13:35). Immersing ourselves in reading the Bible, in catching the big story of God, will help us to learn His ways and know His leading and grow in love and follow in obedience as we live "on earth as it is in heaven" TOGETHER in our everyday.


LOVE _ we have always emphasized the command of God that Jesus emphasized - love God and love people. Jesus' teaching about the Good Samiritan and His demonstration in washing the disciples' feet clearly declare His intent for His church to love their neighbors. Jesus' last words both in Matthew 28 as well as Acts 1 provide for us the call to love the nations. Thus, we want to keep loving neighbors and nations TOGETHER.

Obviously, the most important way that we do this is simply in the pathways of our everyday lives. May we daily love family members, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, and the people we encounter in our community throughout the day. May we also continue to grow in loving one another as the Westpoint family, being the family of God TOGETHER as we lean on each other so that we can keep leaning out into the darkness of our world with the light of Jesus. This is why we encourage SENT Groups. But regardless, of what they are called or how often they meet or what the perception has been, the pure motivation of the SENT Group emphasis has been simply to remind us of how important it is to walk deeply with one another as the family of God, caring for one another and encouraging one another toward living sent daily. May that continue!

Locally, we have, TOGETHER with the Church of West Orange, served in many ways. In fact, the ways that the Lord is using the Church of West Orange are amazing stories in and of themselves. I will try to share these with you over the coming weeks so that you can also celebrate and thank God for how He is moving in and among us as we hope to be the answer to His prayer in John 17!

Locally, we have also served people with specific, everyday, financial needs through our TOGETHER GENEROSITY via the "Westpoint HELP" fund. We have served the families and staff and faculty of the school in which we gather. We have focused our service in ongoing relationship with Matthew's Hope, SASHAs, and the East Winter Garden area. May that continue!

Globally, we have in the past gone TOGETHER to Tanzania, the Dominican Republic, and New Orleans. We have raised money to sponsor children in need and built several wells in communities around the world that had no access to clean water. Currently, there are five very beautiful opportunities to LOVE TOGETHER globally that we won't to make sure you are aware of:

1. Ethiopia
Chad and Cindy Nykamp, a couple in the Westpoint family, leads a ministry called goanddothesame.org that is trying to love Ethiopian orphans and provide clean water for the people of Ethiopia. If you want to LOVE TOGETHER the people of Ethiopia with Chad and Cindy by financially supporting that ministry or even going there, please simply reply to this email and we will forward it on to them.

2. Dominican Republic
Michael and Katie Anderson, who used to serve on leadership with Westpoint focusing with our students, now live in Jarabacoa, DR. They serve kids and families there. If you want to LOVE TOGETHER the people of Dominican Republic with Michael and Katie by financially supporting that ministry or even going there, please simply reply to this email and we will forward it on to the person here who is coordinating our relationship with their ministry there.

3. Haiti
Hughes Severe (who is from Haiti) and his wife Jodi are loving on kids in the southern part of Haiti. They help to provide for the cost of a year's worth of education (along with other basic needs) for almost 40 kids there. If you want to LOVE TOGETHER the kids of Haiti with Hughes and Jodi by financially supporting that ministry or even going there, please simply reply to this email and we will forward it on to them.

4. Zambia
Jamie and Kari McGinn along with a group of other Westpoint families are in the beginning stages of learning how they can serve the people of Zambia and the many orphans there. We have a growing relationship with a pastor there named George Palo, and there are many opportunities to provide clean water, serve families and kids, and even encourage local marketplace leaders trying to create new businesses and support the ministries there. If you want to LOVE TOGETHER the people of Zambia with Jamie and Kari by financially supporting that ministry or even going there, please simply reply to this email and we will forward it on to them.

5. Montreal
I have been burdened for the "lostness" of Quebec. Less than 1% of the people there, according to demographic data, are followers of Jesus. There are literal cities that do not have a Christ-centered church throughout the province. This is a place in North America! Leaders there need encouragement, mission teams, and even folks willing to move there short-term or long-term to cultivate the near love of Jesus via loving friendships. The key city from which the multiplication of local, French-speaking leaders must be advanced is Montreal. If you want to LOVE TOGETHER the people of Quebec with the local leaders there with whom I relate, please simply reply to this email.

SO, some very specific, relational, ongoing ways to serve as a Westpoint family as well as to go LOVE TOGETHER our neighbors and the nations. If you have a growing burden or leading from the Lord for a local or global way that we can LOVE TOGETHER, please simply reply to this email and we can enjoy a cup of coffee together as we explore the possibilities of doing so. Otherwise, please join in on what God is already up to.

May we LOVE TOGETHER both neighbors and nations!


WOW!!! Lots to process. But hopefully this offers you some clarity on our focus for 2012 and beyond. We also are wanting to hear from you on three very specific questions that will really help us to better equip and encourage the Westpoint family as we are being the church and living sent together. Can you PLEASE RESPOND TO THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS by simply replying to this email:

:: do you (or your family) have any specific needs that either we don't know about or that aren't being met at the current time? If so, would you share them with us, regardless of what they are, that we might grow in love and as family together as we try to serve those needs?

:: would you like to have coffee or a meal with anyone on the pastoral team in order to dialogue with them about any questions or concerns or ideas you have about Westpoint now and into the future? This is simply to help us all get more and more on the same page as well as to prohibit unnecessary gossip or frustrations that occur when open conversation and honest relationship aren't happening.

:: would you be willing to share with us three strengths AND three opportunities for improvement that you have observed in our focus and direction and ministries together as a church family? This is simply because as leaders we never want to ignore opportunities to grow, we always value the collective wisdom of our local church family together, and we so desire to forever remember that we are just one local expression of Christ's church at work here in our community and the world.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TAKING THE TIME TO READ THROUGH THIS MARATHON VISION EMAIL :-)

I really hope that you have appreciated the emphasis and information provided herein. The Vision Team and I are so very excited to see all the ways in 2012 and beyond that the Westpoint family grows in love and unity. May we continue to be a part of God's ongoing story. We can't wait to see the story God writes and brings to life in and through our united lives! We can't wait to hear the stories we share with one another as we LISTEN, LEARN, and LOVE TOGETHER!!!

Grateful.
-jason


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