I want to thank everyone in our body who participated in the “I Heart Rogue Valley” events last Saturday, July 28, and to thank Dave Gomez and Carla Tappero for all of their leadership in helping to make this event happen. Through the weekend, over 6,000 hours were given in service to our community by over 1,500 volunteers and at the Friday night youth worship event 44 people committed or recommitted their lives to Jesus while 125 people did the same thing at the Saturday night worship event. Praise the Lord!

That is the story of the weekend in numbers, and as important as those numbers are, I think what is even more important is the message that was carried out into our community; Jesus loves you and as His people we love you too.

Sometimes we in the church get upset when we feel like our culture doesn’t understand us or respect our choices and stands. Of course they don’t, how can they understand what the Holy Spirit is saying to us and doing through us when they do not have the Holy Spirit in them? However, just because the people outside of Jesus’ church don’t understand us doesn’t mean that we ignore them or treat them as they treat us.

William Temple, an Archbishop of Canterbury in the 20th century, made this statement about the church, “The church is the only society on earth that exists for the benefit of non-members.”

And Evangelical theologian Stanley Grenz said, “According to the New Testament, God wills that the church be a people who show what God is like.”

These two statements are challenging, convicting and true. And from experience we know how hard it is to live out the truth of these statements in the real world when our beliefs are being assaulted and assailed. So how can we reach out to people outside the church and show what God is like when our beliefs are under attack? Let me share two verses that give us some great direction.

In Matthew 5:44 and 45, Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”

And in Romans 12:14, Paul wrote, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”

The responses that Jesus and Paul call us to are not normal human responses to rejection and persecution, but they are the responses that allow people to see God and the difference that Jesus has made in our lives.

I am thankful for the “I Heart Rogue Valley” campaign that opened the door for so many to share the love of Jesus with our neighbors and it’s my hope and prayer that as a church family we will continually find ways to share the love of Jesus with people outside of our church so that God may be seen and glorified through our lives.

In Christ,  Mark